Online arenas and narrative inquiry: Navigating the methodological challenges of studying temporary uses in Latin America

Authors: Dalia Milián Bernal*, Tampere University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography, Latin America
Keywords: Temporary Uses, Narrative Inquiry, Online Research, Latin America
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 39
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


“The value of ephemeral projects depends on our capacity to tell about them to others,” said Francisco in an online interview held in 2018. He was talking about Galería-Ballindamm, an open-air, do-it-yourself art gallery mounted weekly on an abandoned street in the city of Querétaro, Mexico, during 2013-2014. Galería-Ballindamm represents one case in a study exploring the phenomenon of temporary uses in Latin America. However, like Galería-Ballindamm, most of the cases in the study no longer exist, often leave no evidence on the sites where they occurred and are located far from one another and the researcher. This paper addresses the methodological challenges of studying this phenomenon. It explains how these challenges transported the research into online arenas, leading to emergent processes of data collection and analysis. The research followed the digital footprint of each case. Observations took place primordially on social media platforms, also used to communicate with research participants and to collect data, including images and stories. Interviews were held online. In an iterative analytical process, research navigated through four approaches of narrative inquiry, which helped produce situational maps and co-construct contextualized plotted narratives that explain people’s actions, unearthing deeper meanings. Although online arenas cannot substitute the experience of site visits, online research can create proximity to phenomena developing elsewhere and lead to unexpected findings. Inasmuch, the digital and online nature of this research allows the Latin American cases to join the international discussions of temporary uses and broaden our understanding of this transient urban phenomenon.

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