“Doing Public Ethnography” is released

Doing Public Ethnography coverMy new book, Doing Public Ethnography: How to Create and Disseminate Ethnographic ad Qualitative Research to Wide Audiences has now been released. The book was published by Routledge, London, as part of its series on Advances in Research Methods. The monograph collects my reflections and writings collected over nearly a decade, with the addition of new essays never published before.

Ethnography and qualitative research methodology in general have witnessed a staggering proliferation of styles and genres over the last three decades. Modes and channels of communication have similarly expanded and diversified. Now ethnographers have the opportunity to disseminate their work not only through traditional writing but also through aural, visual, performative, hypertext, and many diverse and creative multimodal documentation strategies. Yet, many ethnographers still feel insufficiently proficient with these new literacies and opportunities for knowledge mobilization, and they therefore still limit themselves to traditional modes of communication in spite of their desire for innovation.

As university-based, community-driven and politically mandated agendas for broader knowledge transfer keep increasing worldwide, the demand for public scholarship continues to grow. Arguing for the need to disseminate innovative ethnographic knowledge more widely and more effectively, this book outlines practical strategies and tools for sharing ethnographic and qualitative research through widely accessible media such as magazines, trade books, blogs, newspapers, video, radio, and social media. Drawing from practical experiences and hands-on lessons, Doing Public Ethnography provides social scientists across all disciplines with concrete tactics for mobilizing knowledge beyond the academic realm.


Low and Slow airs on Knowledge Network


Low and Slow, my 26 minute documentary about British Columbia’s float plane pilots, aired on Knowledge Network throughout the last week of August 2017. The video can still be seen in Canada on the Knowledge Network website. Everyone else can view it for free on Vimeo.

for those who are interested in its making, an article on the production of Low and Slow and its methodological value is available on the journal Mobilities. The same journal has also published a co-authored piece on super-commuting, which includes an analysis of float plane commuting.

Could the Salish Sea become Canada’s next World Heritage site?

“You know, Laurie, you could have lobbied for the inscription of maybe justthe Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and this whole initiative could have been a whole lot easier.”

“I know,” Laurie Gourlay replies with a smirk, “but I do enjoy a challenge.”

And a mighty challenge it is. Far beyond the boundaries of the existing park reserve, a new proposed World Heritage Site in British Columbia — stretching from the U.S. border to Desolation Sound — would knot together industrial harbours and fishing outposts, 37 First Nations’ traditional land and swanky beach resorts, and a massive marine and terrestrial meshwork of species, ecosystems, communities and interest groups.

“Put it this way: would you deny it has outstanding universal value?” Gourlay asks us in a self-assured tone. April and I glance at each other, wordlessly.

READ the rest of this article, co-authored with April Vannini and published on April 17 2017 in the Tyee.

On a pilgrimage with John Urry

December 8, 2016

There are ghosts on the 6:15am ferry. The passengers, the crew, and I have all been wrestled from our sleep much too early and our souls aren’t quite awake. Even the Quinsam seems to sail through the pre-dawn darkness more like a ghoul than a ship, with hollow groans and moans that reverberate eerily through the pitch-black strait. I ride this spooky sailing about once a month, either to make an early meeting at the university in Victoria or to get on an early Air Canada flight from Nanaimo airport to Vancouver International. Today, it’s the latter. Normally I would get off the small regional Dash 8 at YVR and make my way onto a Boeing 777, a Dreamliner, or an Airbus A320 and fly somewhere else, somewhere far. But not today. I am only going as far as Vancouver today and I will be back home sometime in the afternoon. I am on a pilgrimage today.

Followers of many religions embark at some point or another in their life on pilgrimages in order to seek spiritual and moral guidance from higher beings. Filled with hope and faith, they set off on journeys to destinations meaningful to them, their gods, and their prophets. They carry along sacred texts. Along their routes they seek connection and salvation.

I, to be candid, have no religion whatsoever and today’s my very first pilgrimage. Mind, it’s a pilgrimage in the most metaphorical of terms: an entirely pagan journey driven by the need to find not so much spiritual guidance but rather theoretical and empirical connection by way of experiential inspiration. I carry five treasured texts: four articles in PDF format and a book. The number five–if you happen to be wondering–isn’t of particular cabalistic significance, it just happens to be the limit of cited references my editors have imposed this essay.

Yet the number five presents a unique coincidence: five is also the number of transportation modes I will utilize today: a ferry boat, a car, an airplane, a subway train, and a seaplane. And so along the route I too, one transport mode after another will seek a metaphysical connection with someone whose words have left a profound trace on me and my work. John Urry might not be seating next to me today, but he is still here today.

(Excerpt from “On a pilgrimage with John Urry”–a chapter in a forthcoming book on John Urry’s legacy)