I spoke at the wonderful “Digital Ethnography Weekend“ conference last month in Italy. There, I furthered my argument about what I call “digital dualism,” the fallacy that views the on and offline as separate spheres as opposed to my support of an “augmented reality” paradigm that views these spheres as always enmeshed and dialectically co-determining.

Because this was a “digital ethnography” conference, I applied the augmented reality framework to this methodology and argued that, instead, we should be doing “augmented ethnography”, an ethnography that takes as its unit of analysis a reality comprised of atoms as well as bits, always dialectically co-determining. Colleague Alessandro Caliandro and I debated these ideas in the question-and-answer portion of my talk (with much-appreciated thoughts from Adam Arvidsson, as well). Caliandro has posted his summary of my talk as well as his criticism here. I welcome this criticism and want to respond to it below.

First, Caliandro’s development of my argument is charitable. I also very much appreciate the thoughtfulness of the critique. However, I do need to make a correction to the way he summarized augmented reality, and this correction will be important for my response to the criticism. I do not think that the differences between the physical and digital are “irrelevant”; indeed, they are quite important and I’ve written about them before (e.g., here and here). Atoms and bits have very different properties (for instance, atoms tend to be scarce and bits more abundant). It is my contention that these very different spheres come together to form our augmented reality. In fact, as I argue here, it is only under the assumption of augmented reality that we can fully explicate the relevant differences between the physical and digital. With this correction in mind, let’s move forward. (more…)