I created this essay (set of commentaries) at the request of the editor Alok Khandekar and convener of the issue Dugyu Kasodan. They made the invitation at the 4S Meetings in Puebla, Mexico. The "data set" is composed of the four country written accounts of the "STS Across Borders” and “Innovating STS,” show cases from the Sydney and New Orleans 4S Meetings. I submitted the commentaries to the authors of the country written reports for their feedback. The editorial team with my permission decided to break up the essay into its component commentaries. The four country written accounts and materials the authors have posted on the PECE platform, and are the data set along with other references I used from the general literature as is normal academic practice.
As stated in the essay the point was to experiment with the multiple offerings on the PECE platform in the service of its stated intentions to be a platform for comparative ethnographic work. I ask the question of how one might assemble the range of materials posted on PECE into a sustained comparative ethnographic reflection. My form for doing so was a long essay with an introduction that explains the goal and the challenges as we increasingly move into digital worlds, multiplicities of fragmented "data", and the need for comparative work. The essay is thus not finished or closed or authoritative or final, but rather an invitation for others to contribute; but it is not fragmentary in the sense that raw data collections might be. It provides a grounding for theory making, but privileges the grounding , refusing to allow thin ethnography over-written or coded by memes and slogans that too often pass for theory-making.
Michael M.J. Fischer, MIT