Being in the field together

Being in the field together

By Gabriele Jacobs.

For our first use case „Crowds and events” we observed the use of digital surveillance technology during the climate protests on the A12 on the Saturday of the Pentecost weekend. For this we prepared over a series of weeks with document analysis, interviews, and workshops with different stakeholders. In the spirit of ELSA co-creation, we became very much aware, that observing a protest involves us as researchers and as humans on several levels. How to handle this from an ethical, but also personal safety perspective for our PhDs and colleagues? In several conversations we explored how to balance our perspective as citizens and our role as researchers on protests in general, and this protest in specific. We jointly drafted a protocol, where we integrated ethical, legal and social aspects, and defined safety measures. Especially for the safety measures we learned from both core stakeholders, namely preparation sessions by the protesters, but also advice of the police. Make a clear protocol beforehand, decide on communication channels during the day, make sure you bring warm and water-resistant clothing, enough food, have meeting points, buddies, briefing and de-briefing moments.  A specific advice by the police was, that we should wear yellow vests indicating “Erasmus University, researcher”. For us this felt a bit unusual. I never did something like this in former field research, but now, we realized that it was not only an important safety measure, but also invited plenty of interactions with protesters, and other citizens being at the protests. In this way, clearly identifying ourselves as researcher, made us a very “visible” and transparent partner in the quintuple helix.

On a personal note, an observation that sticks most with me is, that on this day I witnessed a lot of seriousness, a lot of preparation, a lot of thoughtfulness, a lot of respect – on both sides, the police and the protesters. The most striking for me was, that I did not see this back in the media and public discourse that followed these protests. Again, an important lesson in the heated dynamics of public safety management.

Related content
Our first use case: Crowds and events, with a focus on protests
Illustration use cases
ELSA 2.0
ELSA 2.0
Related links
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