Spatial Montage and Multimedia Ethnography: Using Computers to Visualise Aspects of Migration and Social Division Among a Displaced Community


  • Judith Aston University of the West of England



practice-based research, visual anthropology, sensory ethnography, fieldwork recordings, academic discourse, multimedia computing, spatial montage, fluid interfaces, narrative exploration


This paper discusses how computer-based techniques of spatial montage can be used to visualise aspects of migration and social division among a displaced community. It is based on an ongoing collaboration between the author and the anthropologist, Wendy JAMES. The work is based on a substantial archive of ethnographic photographs, audio, cine and video recordings collected by JAMES in the Sudan/Ethiopian borderlands over four decades. Initially recording the way of life of several minority peoples, she was later able to follow their fortunes during the repeated war displacements and separations they suffered from the 1980s onwards. The recordings document work rhythms, dance, song and storytelling, music and other sensory rich performances alongside spoken memories of past events. The research is developing spatial montage techniques to draw comparisons across time, between multiple points of view, and between recordings of events and spoken memories of these events. It is argued that these techniques can be used to facilitate direct engagement with ethnographic recordings, creating multimedia experiences which can flexibly integrate fieldwork data into academic discourse. In so doing it is proposed that these techniques offer new tools to enhance the analysis and understanding of issues relating to migration and social division. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1002361


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Author Biography

Judith Aston, University of the West of England

Judith ASTON is a specialist in cross-cultural communication and digital media practice, who divides her time between teaching and practice-led research in the Creative Arts Faculty at the University of the West of England. She works across the Visual Arts and Social Sciences, interests which come together through her long-standing engagement with Visual Anthropology. She has a particular interest in exploring the relationship between associational space and narrative line within interactive environments, as a means through which to develop media-rich approaches to digital scholarship and new possibilities for digitally expanded film-making. She holds an MA in the Social Sciences from the University of Cambridge and PhD in Interaction Design from the Royal College of Art.




How to Cite

Aston, J. (2010). Spatial Montage and Multimedia Ethnography: Using Computers to Visualise Aspects of Migration and Social Division Among a Displaced Community. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(2).