Amorphography? 1

I suggested, under the Ethnography heading for this blog, that ethnography as presently conceived is too limited and limiting–interesting, engaging, stimulating, and a good avenue for developing collaborative networks, all that I still think is true. However, as a means of gaining and producing knowledge, I would not put all my eggs in the basket of ethnography.

I am thinking of a different methodology, one suitable for an open anthropology, one engaged in collaboration, and facing both complexity and increased chaos, and that is one that, for now, I am calling amorphography: the “ethnography” exploration and expression of complex, interconnected phenomena that in experience and practice take on the shape of amorphous entities (what have been called “cultures” and “social structures”).  Concepts no longer adhere to the disciplinary divides inherited from 19th century Europe though, per force, the vocabulary will sound the same in many instances. Research methods are multiple and changing: as many as the researcher thinks are needed to best answer a question, without unnecessarily or unquestioningly privileging one source or type of data. The amorphography also has a visible expression, in the form of the collage (if written on paper, for example), or the multi-media Web document, with multiple producers and thoroughly interlinked with other Web documents. We no longer research in “fields” here–we create the arenas of engagement, the practice becomes the research and the research is the practice. Elsewhere, I have called this “field creation” (see Forte 2005a, 2005b), and one of the practices involved “creative observation.”

We are almost there: all of the individual elements noted so far already all exist, have already all been practiced. The main challenge now is to bring them all together.