“Doing Family” at a Distance

Transnational Family Practices in Polymedia Environments

Authored by: Mirca Madianou

The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138940918
eBook ISBN: 9781315673974
Adobe ISBN: 9781317377788


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This chapter explores a specific type of relationship—that between parents and children who live apart from each other. The proliferation of communication platforms has contributed to the transformation of the experience of parenting and intimacy at a distance. Communication technologies allow transnational families to come together through sets of mediated practices. This chapter will report on long-term ethnography with UK-based Filipino migrants and their children who remain in the Philippines. Participant observation including online environments (Hine 2015; Pink et al. 2016) has been critical for understanding the intimacy and complex emotions involved in family relationships, especially in the context of separation. Multi-sited ethnography (Marcus 1995) has also been vital for understanding the transnational nature of family dynamics. The chapter will relate some of the key findings of this research (which are reported extensively elsewhere: Madianou 2012, 2014, 2016; Madianou and Miller 2012) to the particular approach followed. The ethnography on which this chapter is based has also provided the foundation for developing a new theory of polymedia and the chapter will conclude by reflecting on the role of ethnography for theory building.

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