Volume 52, Issue 1 p. 81-88
ETHICS IN/OF GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH

The emotional entanglements of smartphones in the field: On emotional discomfort, power relations, and research ethics

Jasmine Truong

Corresponding Author

Jasmine Truong

Department of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Correspondence

Jasmine Truong

Email: [email protected]

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Florian Labhart

Florian Labhart

Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Vic., Australia

Idiap Research Institute, Martigny, Switzerland

Addiction Switzerland, Research Institute, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Darshan Santani

Darshan Santani

Idiap Research Institute, Martigny, Switzerland

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Daniel Gatica-Perez

Daniel Gatica-Perez

Idiap Research Institute, Martigny, Switzerland

Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Emmanuel Kuntsche

Emmanuel Kuntsche

Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Vic., Australia

Department of Developmental Psychopathology, Behavioural Science Institute (BSI), Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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Sara Landolt

Sara Landolt

Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

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First published: 18 March 2019
Citations: 9

Abstract

Despite human geographers’ growing recognition of the need to explore how digital technologies are increasingly co-producing geographies, the methodological implications of such forms of data production are rarely discussed. This paper explores how smartphones co-constitute fieldwork when they are used as research instruments. Drawing from a research project on young people's nightlife in Switzerland, we use Ahmed's ideas of emotions to show how smartphones are not inert research tools but emotionally entangled in the field. We argue that doing research with smartphones visibly in fieldwork has an effect on the relationships between the people, practices, and places of the field site. More specifically, we propose that these effects of emotions call for a renewed scrutiny of research ethics, particularly as smartphones increasingly become part of research designs.

Abstract

This paper explores how smartphones co-constitute fieldwork when they are used as research instruments. We use Ahmed's ideas of emotions to show how smartphones are emotionally entangled in the field and argue that doing research with smartphones visibly in fieldwork has an effect on the relationships between the people, practices, and places of the field site. More specifically, we propose that these effects of emotions call for a renewed scrutiny of research ethics.

DATA ACCESSIBILITY

For data protection reasons, transcriptions of interviews that formed part of the methodology are not publicly available.