Drawing on the experiences of a novel collaborative project between sociologists and computer scientists, this talk identifies a set of challenges for fieldwork that are generated by this 'wild interdisciplinarity'. Public Access Wi-Fi Service was a project funded by an ‘in-the-wild’ research programme, involving the study of digital technologies within a marginalised community, with the goal of addressing digital exclusion. I argue that similar forms of research, in which social scientists are involved in the deployment of experimental technologies within real world settings, are becoming increasingly prevalent. The fieldwork for the project was highly problematic, with the result that few users of the system were successfully enrolled. I'll analyse why this was the case, identifying three sets of issues which emerge in the juxtaposition of interdisciplinary collaboration and wild setting. I conclude with a set of recommendations for projects involving technologists and social scientists.
Murray Goulden is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Nottingham, and an alumnus of the Horizon Digital Research Institute. He has worked extensively on research applying novel digital technologies to real world settings. This includes Co-I on the EPSRC TIPS2 Internet of Things project ‘Defence Against the Dark Artefacts’, and earlier Researcher Co-I roles on two EPSRC-funded projects – ‘Public Access WiFi Service’ and ‘Creating the Energy for Change’. These projects span his interests in networking, digital data, and smart energy, their role in everyday life through the reconfiguring of associated social practices, and the implications for policy making and design. He is currently the recipient of a 3 year Nottingham Research Fellowship, focused on the implications of Internet of Things technologies for patterns of life within the home.