The Code Ethnography Collective is a group of researchers who approach code ethnographically. We have met regularly since July 2021 to discuss different theoretical and methodological aspects of the ethnographic research of computer code.
Some research fields force us to look explicitly at computer code, for example, when we study coding practices, programmers or software engineers. At the same time, code is ubiquitous today, and also present in more subtle forms, as it is the ground for every digital phenomenon. Consequently, code is nothing we encounter in our research by accident or chance, but a perspective we have to include for a necessary understanding of digital practices. Thus, code is not a defined category but rather a methodological perspective that should be considered in every anthropology of the digital. With the introduction of Critical Code Studies, Software Studies, and Critical Algorithm Studies, computer code has become an integral subject of study in the humanities and social sciences. Drawing from this, we aim to develop concise methods for ethnographic research with code.
Code is part of a complex and constantly evolving system. It never exists as a single entity but is embedded in socio-material networks consisting of various human and non-human entities. Ethnography, then, is uniquely suited to its study. Theories in cultural anthropology also present fertile ground for the development of methods for ethnographers to apply in the field. Although code has drawn the attention of cultural anthropologists, and appeared as a focal point in recent digital ethnographies, the groundwork for establishing useful methodological approaches, whether through adaptation or invention, is still being laid. CECO brings together researchers to discuss their methods, challenges and innovations to study computer code ethnographically.