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The ethnography of new media worlds? Following the case of global poker
John Farnsworth Terry Austrin

new media & society 12(7) 11201136 The Author(s) 2010 Reprints and permission: DOI: 10.1177/1461444809355648

New Zealand Broadcasting School, New Zealand

University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Abstract This article relates the current transformation of ethnographic practice to the emergence of new media technologies. It contrasts multi-sited ethnography with actor network theorys method of following the construction of new media worlds through chains of mediators. The authors exemplify this through the extraordinary emergence of global poker and its shifting constitution across the entire spectrum of traditional and new media technologies. They argue that poker vividly illustrates how following makes sense of these emergent new worlds while at the same time it is an excellent vehicle for problematizing key issues of ethnographic practice. Key words actor network theory, bots, contact zones, digital technologies, media anthropology, media studies, mediators, multi-sited ethnography, new media, poker

How do we undertake media ethnography in the 21st century? This has become an increasingly urgent question with the proliferation of new digital technologies and the complex, sometimes unanticipated, changes in social forms and practices they provoke. The question is further complicated by intense debates, both within and across disciplines, about what it is meant by media ethnography and about how best to study these constantly transforming phenomena.

Corresponding author: John Farnsworth, New Zealand Broadcasting School, CPIT, PO Box 540, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand. Email:

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We take all this up in two related approaches. The first is by drawing on actor network theory (ANT) in order to problematize and reframe ethnographic method. The second is to illustrate this in practice by following the explosive growth of global, mediated poker. Poker, in many ways, typifies the extraordinary speed with which highly unstable new media worlds, from social network sites to online gaming, continue to evolve. By extension, it represents the new problems of investigation such worlds present. We argue that, taken together, poker and ANT suggest how sociotechnical formations and methodological debates might be approached in potentially fresh and illuminating ways. In the first instance, we draw on the radical approach to ethnography developed by ANT. This method, as developed by a wide network of researchers (Latour, 2005; Science Studies Centre, 2000; Social Studies of Science, n.d.), demonstrates a fruitful means of making sense of social worlds. This is by following how such worlds are assembled, and then stabilized, through the conjunction of particular actors, objects, technologies and networks. Where it parts company with traditional ethnographic method is in emphasizing how the intensive process of assemblage and translation constitutes such sites in the first place. Put another way, our interest is in how fields are constituted that then become the material for fieldwork in traditional ethnographic practice (Becker and Pessin, 2006). This could be said to imply a different approach to epistemology (Beaulieu, 2004). However, we do not claim a special epistemic position except to note that our approach to method echoes that set out by Latour and his claim of irreduction. Here, he argues No object is inherently reducible or irreducible to any other, so that all actants whether human or object are on the same footing (Harman, 2009: 12). Put another way, and following Latour, our epistemology is closer to Tarde than Durkheim with all the implications that follow from this (Latour, in press). We illustrate this through the case of global poker. Poker, worldwide, has been a spectacular phenomenon over the last decade. It has rapidly become a multi-billion dollar activity that embraces diverse forms of face-to-face and online interaction. To take just one statistic, 40 million people across the northern hemisphere currently play poker regularly: this includes 10.1 percent of the entire adult US population (Poker Players Research, 2008). It is spectacular, too, in its sheer diversity of media forms, from syndicated television shows, online poker sites, world poker tours and regional tournaments to numerous mobile, digital and software devices. It is spectacular in style and presentation, from the lavish World Series of Poker held annually in Las Vegas, to the complex intersections of celebrity, amateur and professional participation (Holden, 2007). Whether playing or watching, poker enthusiasts have access to an immense spectrum of media, ranging from popular television series to games played on mobile, handheld devices (www.pokerroad. com). The interaction of these technologies and their human participants constantly changes how the game is reported, played or watched as the recent impact of Twitter on player behaviour illustrates (Nathan, 2009). These developments have many parallels both in media (Barendregt, 2006) and in non-media worlds, such as databases, GIS and computer models (Beaulieu, 2004: 142). Assembled in different ways, these chains of constituent elements can produce both poker-related worlds (blackjack, card games, gambling) and more distant ones, such as stock market speculation (MacKenzie, 2007).


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Consequently, in this article we follow the emergence of global poker because of its parallels to other domains. Coupled with ANT, it suggests a way of refocusing ethnographic method in a way that enhances its explanatory potential. This is to highlight how multi-sited worlds, such as those commonly found in poker, are put together: in other words, following how the assembling of actors, practices and technologies constitutes the very sites studied by other researchers. Our article is not an ethnography of poker. It is a discussion about how to approach ethnography given the relentless march of new sociotechnical developments. Poker typifies common patterns of interaction across traditional and new media, as well as mass and personal media forms (Luders, 2008). In what follows, we first lay out some of the issues and recent debates within ethnography and in studying new media. We discuss these in relation to ANT. We then turn to global poker and show how the method enables us to follow the way poker worlds are configured, on- and offline. We compare this to the approach of traditional media ethnography, in part by drawing on the work of Nick Couldry. From here, we draw conclusions about how ANT illuminates the constitution of such complex, mobile worlds in contrast to existing ethnographic perspectives.

Media ethnography
Broad questions around investigating rapidly changing media technologies and social formations have generated considerable debate and enquiry (Buscher and Urry, 2009; Castells, 1996; Goggin and Hjorth, 2007; Hine, 2004; Latham and Sassen, 2004; Luders, 2008). In addition, a sub-field of media anthropology and ethnography has emerged only recently. This in itself has been a contested field, equally beset with problems about how such study is to be carried out (Askew and Wilk, 2002: 1; Chalfen, 1978; Peterson, 2003; Postill, 2008; Spitulnik, 1993). Rothenbuhler (2008), for instance, goes so far as to argue that media and anthropology are counterposed terms. One way of looking at these developments is to understand media anthropology and ethnography as a contact zone (Pratt, 1991), one in which different disciplinary pressures and methodological formations engage each other. This perspective highlights the way that ethnographic practice is undergoing change within anthropology (Coman and Rothenbuhler, 2008) at the same time as it is being hybridized or creolized by other disciplines (Bar et al., 2007). Simultaneously, the media sites, objects and practices which ethnographers study are also transforming and proliferating: research on digital and mobile technologies or social network sites are just three instances (boyd, 2007; boyd and Ellison, 2007; Crabtree et al., 2006, Kjeldskov et al., 2006). This is without considering the blurring of academic and commercial domains (Rampoldi-Hnilo, 2008). If media anthropology is a contact zone then, as Rees (2007) suggests, it is one in which fieldwork, fields, resources and methods intermingle with different disciplinary perspectives about what constitutes ethnographic method. Marcus recognized the tensions this produces as long ago as 1995, noting the emergence of multi-sited ethnography within new spheres of interdisciplinary work, including media studies, science and technology studies, and cultural studies (Marcus, 1995: 95). He commented, Precisely because such interdisciplinary arenas do not share a clearly bounded object of study,

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distinct disciplinary perspectives that participate in them tend to be challenged (Marcus, 1995: 97). Add to this the new, constantly expanding technological domains investigated by researchers from nanotechnologies to distributed systems, and the field becomes entirely open to debate and rethinking (Rabinow, 2006). It is this ferment which prompts Rees (2007: 2) to comment that one core element of classic anthropological method has hardly ever been substantially problematized and made the object of discussion: the centrality of ethnography as the defining element of anthropological method.

Media ethnography and new media worlds

Nonetheless, media ethnography has taken up key preoccupations and debates from within existing ethnographic and anthropological literature. Rothenbuhler and Coman (2005) argue, for example, that media ethnography draws centrally on issues of ritual and myth and the way these reproduce particular kinds of social relations and cultural orders. This perspective has been reflected in much ongoing work, as recent anthropology readers indicate (Askew and Wilk, 2002; Ginsburg et al., 2002). Where the perspective has been contested it has been, for example, by arguing for an anthropological theory of embodied practice in relation to a study of the media (Pink, 2005: 8). Such embodied practice ranges from conventional media production and consumption to online dating, web forums, cyber activity, e-government, blogging and mobile phone use (Media Anthropology Network, 2006). The shift in this case is from classical themes of hierarchy and ritual to networks and mobilities (Urry, 2007: 57). In short, the traditional media ethnography field has expanded in order to accommodate new practices and technologies; simultaneously, it has provoked debates over interdisciplinarity, forms of ordering and contact zones (European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Media Anthropology Network e-seminar, 2008; Rothenbuhler, 2008). It has also had to contend with the emergence of other currents of interest which, potentially, may reconfigure the field. One example is the paper by Bar et al. (2007). This investigates both the penetration and appropriation of mobile technologies in South America and draws on a rich mix of social science literatures to frame how these sociotechnical exchanges take place. A second example is research that draws on related developments and approaches, such as those in visual anthropology (Grimshaw and Ravetz, 2004; Postma and Crawford, 2006). A third is the rapid proliferation of studies of mobile phone use (e.g. Caronia, 2005; Esbjrnsson et al., 2007; Hflich and Hartmann, 2006; Huhtamo, 2004; Ito et al., 2005; Lai, 2007; Okabe and Ito, 2006). Media ethnography has also taken on from its parent discipline of anthropology the problem of ethnographic study as one produced at particular locations or sites. Wittel (2000: 1) summarizes this by quoting Clifford Geertz (1973) on cultural anthropology: They have a culture out there and your job is to come back and tell us what it is. He uses this remark to ask how traditional ethnographic notions of the field, fieldwork and participant observation can be expected to make sense in a networked world. He argues that the complexity of real and virtual networked worlds, and the multi-sited research they require, suggests it may be appropriate to dispense with the term ethnography altogether in favour of conversation, text or discourse analysis. His point is that the objects of ethnographic enquiry are on the move and its researchers need to be, too (Wittel, 2000: 8).


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Dominguez et al. (2007) make the point in a different way, arguing as follows:
This multi-disciplinary embracing of ethnography enriches it and broadens the set of answers to the methodological questions raised. This diversity of approaches, together with some classic debates on ethnography such as the relation between the researcher and the field, ethical questions, the participant observation or the construction of the ethnographical discourse take a new form when researching the Internet.

Our emphasis, within this diversity, is on the central role of objects and technologies in organizing and circulating virtual and real worlds. Latour (1998) demonstrates the paradox this can involve, for example, by highlighting the dense materiality intrinsic to constructing the virtual worlds of Second Life. Our account, like those of other media ethnographers, is situated within the same set of sociotechnical developments. We have already noted this with respect to new media technologies: the internet, P2P file-sharing software and miniaturized mobile technologies; broadly, the media aspect of media ethnography (e.g. Ito et al., 2009). In turn, these raise questions about how to understand and study the new or emergent social formations they produce. This includes formations that are engaged, for instance, not simply as audiences but as shifting complexes of interactive users (Boellstorff, 2006; Goggin and Hjorth, 2007; Urry and Sheller, 2009). In the case of poker, this encompasses the mix of ordinary and celebrity worlds, or amateur and professional boundaries. There is one further aspect to this. Globalization implies a move from an ethnography that emphasizes the observation of exotic strangers in foreign lands (Heryanto, 2008) towards studying those others who are, in fact, in the midst of us or are, indeed, us. Ethnography has, in many senses, had to come home as Strathern (1987) and others have argued. In this context, the notion of place becomes increasingly problematic. For example, Wolfgang Zierhofer (2005: 102), in a study of passport control and the role of the nation-state, comments that world-society is becoming a network of practices in which social space is of primary importance, and physical space is only subsidiary to the process of fixing and managing identities (Hepp, 2004). This, as we describe later, is a distinctive problem that arises with online poker.

Actor networks
One of ANTs key concerns has been with understanding how new worlds are put together in one or many sites. More than this, how such sites and networks are constituted in the first place: in short, how the social is assembled (Latour, 2005). To follow how this takes place, one of the prime interests of actor network researchers is in mediators: these are the numerous, often unnoticed intermediaries that link practices, entities, networks and even worlds together. They may work as individual agents but often they function in clusters assemblages to accomplish the work they do. Such assemblages are, commonly enough, a mixture of humans interacting with technologies. Broadcasting, for instance, was unthinkable until the right assemblage of professionals, production facilities, transmission networks and radio or television receivers could be brought into conjunction (Boddy, 2004; Williams, 1974). Such assemblages can also be reworked: occupations,

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technologies and the linkages between them are constantly added, removed or redesigned. In the media field, tape has given way to digital recording, film to electronic recording, costly studio to cheap portable field production. The same is true of the constant reconfiguration of portable cellular phone and digital devices (Farnsworth and Austrin, 2005). And this has changed work practices, job designations, jurisdictions and modes of representation along the way. Poker, online and on television, is just a new iteration of this development. Each link in these processes involves mediators. And mediators mediate: they join, negotiate and translate from one network to another. They do so, ceaselessly, at all levels of practice and representation. Actor network researchers have followed how this takes place across a wide range of assemblages, from the media, such as advertising, radio and music production (e.g. Hennion, 1989, 2005; Hennion and Fauquet, 2001; Hennion and Madel, 1986, 1989), to patents, science, history, geography, financial markets, business and, of course, ethnography (Callon, 2002; Coopmans et al., 2004; De Laet, 2000; Joyce, 2001; Knorr Cetina, 1997; Latour and Woolgar, 1986; Law and Hetherington, 2000; Law and Mol, 2000). Mediators also produce, often unnoticed, the worlds of the ordinary and the celebrity: in our case, the world of poker. This has been regardless of pokers history as a seedy road game or played as a banal, domestic activity, or as a ritual enacted in casinos and private homes worldwide (Hayano, 1982; Zurcher, 1970); likewise, when it later became a celebrity site of high-stakes games, world tournaments and glamorous players winning or losing unthinkable amounts of cash in a single sitting. In each case, it was the unnoticed technologies of the game, and the venue, from the cards to the chips and counting machines, that knitted these different arrangements together. Subsequently, poker online and onscreen has not only combined these worlds through new mediators, it has transformed them. This includes the recent non-human arrival: the poker bot, as we describe later.

Online and televised poker

What are televised and online poker, and why should they matter to media ethnography? First, the online game. As Wireds Dan Kushner (2005) wrote:
Theres plenty at stake. An estimated 1.8 million gamblers around the world ante up for online poker every month. Last year, poker sites raked in an estimated $1.4 billion, an amount expected to double in 2005.

Holden (2007: 12) notes that by 2007 this had risen to around $100 million every day, or more than US$3.6 billion per year. In short, online poker is a rapidly expanding global business. Playing online, however, is a little different to playing the face-to-face casino version. As the winner of the 2003 World Series of Poker Tournament, the aptly named Chris Moneymaker, commented:
Online you have to be a lot more aggressive. [With] live play you have time to contemplate your moves more often and you get to pick up physical tells and betting tells.


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Moneymakers win in 2003 not only escalated him as a very ordinary online poker player into celebrity status but also escalated the popularity of online poker as a route to success in real tournaments. Such has been the success of the online game that it has attracted intense television interest.1 It has meant that poker tournaments are now organized in two ways: as a television game in which the audiences witness the decision-making process of the players; and as ritual, celebrating the transition from ordinariness to celebrity (e.g. Diana Brady (2005) reported on the variety of programming this has brought about:
Among the shows competing for eyeballs are Bravos Celebrity Poker Showdown, Poker Superstars on Fox Sports Network, GSNs Poker Royale: Battle of the Sexes, and the National Heads-Up Poker Championship on NBC. Then there are startups such as Casino & Gaming Television and Edge TV. But the biggest threat is ESPN, which airs the popular World Series of Poker. Its expanding coverage of the game and even has a fictional poker series, Tilt, on the way.

Television and the internet have also produced two interrelated forms of the game. One is directly televised (Wikipedia [n.d.] gives one regularly updated list). The other is via streaming video. (2005) comments, for example, that the World Series of Poker Tournament, a leading site, offers a unique brand of programming, in that it blends a reality TV feel with top sports programming production values. This allows viewers, online, to follow an edited version of the game either through websites or wireless mobile servers ( They can do this because the game onscreen is provided with cameras embedded in the card table and in miniaturized RFID (radio frequency identification) chips embedded in each card. Like cricket, viewers can follow the game from multiple viewpoints and get detailed, blow-by-blow statistics as the face-to-face play unfolds. In this case, it is not only the camera as the mediator that allows following on screen but the editing into a coherent narrative, together with commentary. This is a form of assemblage that Laurier et al. (2008) have noted with professional video editing. Moreover, with streaming video or live television, viewers can, themselves, gamble on the outcome of the gamblers at the table, using deal histories and updates on player form to assist them. Indeed, it is common practice for players to take shares in other players as a way of hedging their bets or maximizing their earnings. In passing, each technological reconfiguration can be seen to rework existing social formations. Each of these developments involve the mediators cards, chips, cameras, databases, websites that produce these new, live worlds. Clustered together, they provide opportunities for promoters, channels and new media genres and for players moving from ordinary to celebrity status through the conjunction of these extraordinary arrangements. Following these linkages still accounts for how these new worlds and their inhabitants are assembled. Following also indicates how the translation from ordinary to celebrity takes place and how liveness is constituted through editing. And following does not dispense with either ritual or reproduction; rather, it marks how these are organized and sustained. We take this one stage further. Online poker games involve the same acute management of time, space, things (and bodies at a distance) as real table-based games. They manage sociality by relying on

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emoticons and avatars to compensate for the reduced bodily cues of online communication (Postill, 2008: 426). They also involve uncertainty, in ways that Luders (2008: 689) claims are general to digitalized media. She points to the anonymity of receivers who may select their own understandings from messages they exchange. In the case of poker, this is further extended by the issue of who is playing at the table. Players may be drawn from anywhere (Latin America, Europe or the Middle East). And uncertainty is extended in one further, unexpected way. This is through the use of poker robots (Ppokerr. com, n.d.). As Kushner (2005) reported:
CptPokr is a robot. Unlike the other icons at the table, there is no human placing his bets and playing his cards. He is controlled by WinHoldEm, the first commercially available autoplaying poker software. Seat him at the table and he will apply strategy gleaned from decades of research. While carbon-based players munch Ding Dongs, yawn, guzzle beer, reply to email, take phone calls, and chat on IM, CptPokr . . . is running the numbers so it will know, statistically, when to hold em and when to fold em.

Smart, skilled players are rewarded in the long run, especially online, where there are plenty of beginners who would never have the nerve to sit down at a real table. But WinHoldEm is not just smart, it is a machine. Set it to run on autopilot and it wins real money while you sleep. Flick on Team mode and you can collude with other humans running WinHoldEm at the table. Bots are the logical extension in an internet domain which removes the face-toface (Galvin, 2009). On the one hand, this leads to casino concerns about automated cheating, if every other player may be non-human. On the other, bots are hardly peculiar to poker: they are routinely used, for instance, in auction sites or financial markets. Current developments in poker highlight further reconfigurations among technologies, networks and participants. For instance, there have been recent changes in the mobile game with the introduction of the cruncher for the iPhone. Grayson (2009) describes how the cruncher calculator not only calculates the odds but, as software, combats the impact of software used by other players. It can also link a network of up to 10 entirely mobile-based players, decoupling them altogether from the casino-based game. Again, dense chains of mediators are central to this reconfiguration. Other technologies also reconfigure spectator or player behaviour. Nuttall (2009) describes how Facebooks most popular application, with 11 million downloads, has been the poker software, Win HoldEm. Twitter has also changed bluffing behaviour (Kirkpatrick, 2009). Its tweets provide information or misinformation about other players intentions mimicking, in effect, face-to-face behavioural tells (Caro, 2003). It is also newly linked with Facebook in mixing high-stakes celebrity with low-stakes play in the UK (, n.d.) Wealth and status are intrinsic to the extraordinary growth of pokers celebrity culture: a mix of vulgarity, calculative brilliance, aggression and an astute capacity to read tells (Grotenstein and Reback, 2006; Wilson, 2006). Yet, such rituals of celebrity and celebration in casinos, on television or networked online are organized and distributed through the ceaseless circulation of mediators as chains of translation. These constantly rework the


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events, actors and narrators for diverse sets of audiences and participants in broadcasting and online settings.

Following the mediators

Understanding the successful transformation of poker means following how the live game is constantly translated: from a table game played by co-present players, to one played for the media, to the game online. It also raises questions about how to follow such translations, especially when these constantly appear, and change, so fast. Twitter and the iPhone, cited earlier, are typical. As researchers, we were both surprised by their unexpected appearance in late 2009. Yet, such is the speed of online communication that we have since accessed them through numerous portals (e.g. BLAPO, 2009), been expertly tutored on YouTube (Low Stakes Poker Ep. 1 pt. 1, n.d.), and are constantly able to play or spectate as we wish (, n.d.). Consequently, the sheer proliferation of poker itself provides answers about how to follow sociotechnical arrangements. Online, the researcher is overwhelmed with data: blogs, copious websites, expert commentaries, tip sheets, manuals, videos, podcasts, downloadable software and much else. Researchers can engage in free or commercial sites; or they can lurk in chat rooms. We have done all this ourselves; we have hung out and studied accounts of others who have done so. One author has interviewed casino and internet players; the other was present at the Las Vegas World Series of Poker in July 2005, and has been present in poker rooms from Los Angeles to Auckland. Additionally, we have studied poker para-ethnographers. We use the term in the sense that Holmes and Marcus (2005: 1101) suggest, through the imaginaries of expert others through what we call para-ethnography. In poker, these are the player experts who write, or blog, extraordinarily detailed, play-by-play accounts of the action (Brunson, 2002; Greenspan, 2006; McManus, 2003; Wilson, 2007). This wealth of information and interaction suggests two things. First, it problematizes Geertzs injunction that a culture is out there and must be brought home. On the contrary, the game and its culture are simultaneously both at home and elsewhere: poker comes to us or we can go to it, depending on how it is played, followed or mediated. Second, following enables us to trace precisely how the mediations provided for by cameras, software and chips transform both the game and those who play the game. As followers, we can establish how the game is not only transformed but how successive transformations extend the actor networks involved in organizing, playing and watching the game.

Media ethnography: the case of Nick Couldry

How does our argument fit with a more standard practice of media ethnography? By way of illustration, we contrast actor network with the work of one particular media ethnographer. Nick Couldry (2008) is one of the few ethnographers to draw attention to ANT. He also adopts a multi-sited approach towards media activity across a number of publications. In doing so, he articulates some common, and central, ethnographic themes. Here, we highlight three, noting that the notion of binaries is key to each theme.

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The first theme is around media centres and peripheries. Couldry (2001, 2003) relates to the idea of power inequalities and to ways in which these are persistently reproduced over time in material and symbolic capital. Couldrys interest is in how this hierarchical relationship, expressed through the constructed ritual categories of the ordinary and celebrity, might be undone, and how media rituals might be disrupted or reworked in favour of the margins. Intrinsic to this perspective is the idea of a binary: centre vs margin, with the centre never being marginal, and vice versa. Centres and peripheries are always taken as sites, whether these are Coronation Street or Greenham Common (Couldry, 2000). A second binary emerges around co-presence and distance. Co-presence, Couldry (2000) argues, is necessary to ritual performance, but is absent in networks mediated at distance. This binary is useful in accounting, for example, for new media forms such as the internet which, in essence, is nothing but a gigantic network. The novelty of Couldrys argument is in linking this to an important third theme: the issue of liveness and live broadcasting. As he emphasizes, liveness is not only possible through networks but is also becoming a more important element of all media (Couldry, 2004a). Networks serve to connect audiences and to construct the significance of live events by the way in which they mediate and provide access to them. This has long been the power wielded by major broadcasting networks (Gitlin, 2000; Newcomb and Hirsch, 2000). Taken together, these three aspects of Couldrys work suggest how, in conjunction, they produce media power through the myth of the mediated centre (Couldry, 2004b). The centre is powerful in part because it mediates access to live events to the rituals of media performance. In doing so, it reproduces both the centremargin binary and the co-presencedistance binary at the same time. Liveness helps secure these and also the reproduction of inequality in a particularly potent way. This, as Couldry develops it, is a persuasive account of the reproduction of media power. However, a binary analysis provides no real account of the mediators that constitute the binary of the detailed, human and technological linkages that produce either the centre or the periphery, or the actual connections between them. The same is true of the binary of co-presence and mediation at distance. Such a model also emphasizes ritual and reproduction. This is a standard ethnographic perspective; one, as noted earlier, that is articulated in much media ethnography (Coman, 2005; Rothenbuhler and Coman, 2005). In the absence of mediators, however, it is hard pressed to explain their opposite: how change occurs. In short, Couldrys version of passing ethnography involves replacing mediators and actor networks by symbolic sites that mediate the reality of the social. And such sites are assumed to exist prior to investigation. He alone oversees the multi-sites he chooses and he alone sees the patterns. In this capacity of ethnographer as overseer of multiple sites, his accounts demonstrate his success at decoding what is going on. His passing ethnography is characterized by jumps from local settings to the societal through arguments about ritual. It does not involve following how such connections are made, how sites are established or, alternatively, how connections decay. The issue here, as we have argued, is not multiple sites, as Couldry proposes, but multiple media. The key difference they enable is that audiences can participate in either the online games available on internet gambling sites, and distributed through computer


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and mobile phones, or through the televised live tournament games. Like us, they can also follow the sociotechnical devices and multiple genres which take both a personal and mass form (Luders, 2008): blogs, video streaming, authored articles, diverse postings every day and published books that chronicle the journey from ordinary obscurity to celebrity in Las Vegas and the World Series. These biographical/diaried accounts are written as blogs and also take the form of texts in conventional print-based genres.2 Such multiple media also rework the problem of the mediated centre since, with online poker, these shifting assemblages mean, in effect, no centre exists and certainly no ritual or symbolic centre in the sense Couldry suggests. Instead, they are constantly negotiated constellations that attempt to secure sponsors, media technologies and networks of players and audiences in competition with other providers.

We began the article by outlining the extensive, cross-disciplinary discussions about what constitutes media ethnography and referred to the emergence, in effect, of a contact zone where these perspectives intersect. Our emphasis has been to provide an account of how ANT tracks the configuration of media worlds. We set this up in contrast to other ethnographic approaches. One, which we represented through Nick Couldrys work, has been the move from single- to multisited ethnography and its location in new mediated environments. This, we argue, takes the pre-existence of the ethnographic field as given, as much electronic media ethnography does (Dicks et al., 2006): it reads off, through interviews, recordings, semiotic or cultural analysis, what is found there. By contrast, we have illustrated how unstable, proliferating new media worlds need a different method: one which traces just how they are constituted in the first place. ANT offers precisely this: it shows how such emergent worlds are constituted, sustained or transformed. In this respect, the extraordinary development of mediated poker is a typifying case. This is not just through the instances we have outlined here. They have also reshaped, for example, processes of regulation and professionalization (Poker Player Online, 2008) or the expansion of marketing strategies (, 2009). The same is true in non-poker worlds: in the changing configuration of online and mobile worlds from social networking sites to cellphones and technological society at large (Barry, 2001; Goggin and Hjorth, 2007). In short, the sociotechnical arrangements we have identified with poker are common across the entire domain of media and non-media worlds. As we have argued, it is by following the mediators that constitute them that we can understand how such diverse, intersecting worlds are assembled, stabilized and transformed. Notes
1 As (2006) reports, Online poker giant Partypokers recent deal with the British TV network Five is the largest deal of its kind in the latters 9 year history according to advertising media reports this week with 72 hours of programming. 2 Two such classic diaries or texts are McManus (2003) and Alvarez (2002[1983]).

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John Farnsworth teaches at the New Zealand Broadcasting School. He publishes in areas of media sociology and new media, ethnographic and qualitative methods and areas connected with actor network theory. Terry Austrin is an associate professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He has research interests in gambling, new media, ethnography and the sociology of work.