It’s All About “Being There”

Rethinking Presence and Co-Presence in the Ethnographic Field during and after the Covid-19 Pandemic


  • Juan Bermúdez University of Vienna



TikTok, multimedia fieldwork, music and place, ethnographing, pandemic, ethnography, Covid-19 pandemic


Ethnomusicologists often move into the field to observe, analyse, and describe the knowledge creation and negotiation practices of a musical tradition. However, the scenarios caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have proven to be a challenge to the practice of our ethnographic work. We were prevented from going to the field and musicians could not meet physically to develop their musicking, partially transferring their practices to various digital platforms. Although the pandemic confronts us with previously unthinkable challenges, some of these situations are not new if we think about musical practices like those of TikTok. Beyond the time of the pandemic, these practices have already shown to be a challenge for various theoretical and methodological conceptions of our ethnographic work, since they do not materialize in concrete practices in a given place. In this article, drawing on my ethnographic research on TikTok musicking from an Austrian perspective, as well as my reflections as an ethnomusicologist during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, I will discuss the idea of musical geography through practice, as well as the concepts of presence and co-presence, to critically reflect on the ideas of “being there” or “being present”, so important in ethnographic work. In addition to these reflections, I will examine and discuss various experiences lived throughout the musicking of TikTok under a multimedia reality before and during the pandemic, in order to discuss the idea that musical geography through practice can change our perspectives on the field pre- and post-pandemic.

Author Biography

  • Juan Bermúdez, University of Vienna

    Juan Bermúdez is a Mexican ethnomusicologist. He studied music (marimba) at the University of Sciences and Arts of Chiapas, as well as ethnomusicology at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz. Bermúdez received his PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Vienna with a thesis about the musicking of the smartphone application TikTok. His current work focuses on music and dance practices in digital media and multimedia contexts.


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How to Cite

Bermúdez, J. (2023). It’s All About “Being There”: Rethinking Presence and Co-Presence in the Ethnographic Field during and after the Covid-19 Pandemic. Journal of World Popular Music, 10(1), 19–35.