Published by SHARECITY on the 13th September 2017.
Activities utilising online tools are an increasingly visible part of our everyday lives, providing new subjects, objects and relationships – essentially new landscapes – for research, as well as new conceptual and methodological challenges for researchers. In parallel, calls for collaborative interdisciplinary, even transdisciplinary, research are increasing. Yet practical guidance and critical reflection on the challenges and opportunities of conducting collaborative research online, particularly in emergent areas, is limited. In response, this paper details what we term the ‘creative construction’ involved in a collaborative project building an exploratory database of more than 4000 food sharing activities in 100 cities that utilise internet and digital technologies in some way (ICT mediated for brevity) to pursue their goals. The research was undertaken by an international team of researchers, including geographers, which utilised a combination of reflexive coding and online collaboration to develop a system for exploring the practice and performance of ICT-mediated food sharing in cities. This paper will unpack the black box of using the internet as a source of data about emergent practices and provide critical reflection on that highly negotiated and essentially handcrafted process. While the substance of the paper focuses on the under-determined realm of food sharing, a site where it is claimed that ICT is transforming practices, the issues raised have resonance far beyond the specificities of this particular endeavour. While challenging, we argue that handcrafting systems for navigating emergent online data is vital, not least to render visible the complexities and contestations around definition, categorisation and translation.
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