Gordon Coonfield is an Associate Professor of Communication at Villanova University. His research draws on multidisciplinary scholarship in anthropology, communication, media and cultural studies, and urban geography to study the ways in which collectives communicatively create, negotiate, and contest their shared past. His long-term fieldwork in the Kensington section of North Philadelphia utilizes multimedia to document the ways in which changes to the built environment impact cultures of memory. This work served as the basis for Kensington Remembers, a digital humanities project which utilizes story mapping, photography, and ethnographic writing to explore vernacular memorial sites in one of Philadelphia’s most impoverished neighborhoods.
Kensington Remembers: Multimodal Fieldwork and the Study of Urban Vernacular of Memory
In the practice of ethnography, multimodality acknowledges the fact that networked media and complex information systems are a part of the lives which the ethnographer seeks to understand and document. And the stuff of our everyday digital lives – mobile phones, digital photography, and social media – offers a rich set of tools for making sense of and representing culture. In this presentation, I talk about Kensington Remembers (https://kensingtonremembers.org), a digital project based on 3 years of multimodal ethnographic fieldwork in North Philadelphia. I talk about the use of photography, geo-location, and digital story mapping to both study and communicate the results of this work and explore the implications of multimodality for the study of urban culture from a communication perspective.