Ethnographic Research


Published on

Published in: Education, Technology

Ethnographic Research

  1. 1. Ethnographic Research <ul><li>Ethnographic fieldwork was developed originally by anthropologists to study a society,culture or group in depth. </li></ul><ul><li>The approach depended heavily on observation and in some cases integration into the society. </li></ul><ul><li>Participant observation enables researchers to share the experience of their subjects. </li></ul>
  2. 2. <ul><li>Ethnography has been very influential in social sciences,and media related study. </li></ul><ul><li>Eg in the early 1990’s David Morley’s work on television and audience and Silverstone and Hirsch’s work on technology in domestic spaces both use an ethnographic model to study the specifics of media consumption. </li></ul><ul><li>More recently theorists such as Christine Hine have suggested that virtual ethnography is possible and productive </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>If ethnography offers a methodology what research methods are utilised ? </li></ul><ul><li>and </li></ul><ul><li>Are they applicable to the digital era? </li></ul>
  4. 4. What research methods? <ul><li>Consider through a classic example as a case study: Mass Observation </li></ul>
  5. 5. MASS OBSERVATION <ul><li>MO is a classic example of research based on ethnographic principles conducted in Britain. </li></ul><ul><li>It was started in 1937 to document daily life : </li></ul><ul><li> “ How little we know of our next door neighbour and his habits…Of conditions of life and thought in another class or another district,our ignorance is complete” MO pamphlet 1937 </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>The two founders were Charles Madge a journalist and poet and Tom Harrison an anthropologist. </li></ul><ul><li>They described it as </li></ul><ul><li> “an independent ,scientific fact finding </li></ul><ul><li>body” </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>MO used three main methods to conduct research: </li></ul><ul><li>Diaries </li></ul><ul><li>Observers </li></ul><ul><li>Writers/artists </li></ul><ul><li>The first two involved ordinary people </li></ul><ul><li> “ They will be the meteorological stations from whose reports a weather map of popular feeling can be compiled “ </li></ul><ul><li> MO Pamphlet 1937 </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Diaries </li></ul><ul><li>ordinary people were invited to keep a diary record of their lives and send in regular updates. Diaries were collated in MO and reports prepared - to indicate what people were thinking. </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Observers </li></ul><ul><li>ordinary people were recruited to watch, listen and document all aspects of behaviour within their local environment. </li></ul><ul><li>Observers behaved a bit like spies using a stop watch and noting details down .(eg wages) </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Poets writers and artists to complement the findings. eg </li></ul><ul><li>Photographer Humphrey Spender </li></ul><ul><li>spent time in Bolton (which became known as Worktown) taking documentary photographs for MO.He spent about 20 weeks there in all as part of the team,working for free. </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>Spender’s images raise a number of ethical </li></ul><ul><li>How far was the subject matter directed? </li></ul><ul><li>What relationship did he have with his subjects - was he integrated or seen as an outsider? Trusted? </li></ul><ul><li>How far was he “unobserved”? </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Choice of techniques used supplemented later by interview (structured and open) and questionnaire </li></ul><ul><li>Techniques can be combined usefully. </li></ul><ul><li>Each method can be evaluated for its implications regarding objectivity and subjectivity.Consider relatively. </li></ul>
  13. 13. applicable to digital era? <ul><li>Diary ? </li></ul><ul><li>Observers ? </li></ul><ul><li>Photography ? </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Contemporary TV culture is making use of these participatory methods as “reality tv” </li></ul><ul><li>eg ? </li></ul><ul><li>Viewers are invited to “observe” </li></ul><ul><li>More typically these programmes feature an “expert” to advise the subjects (and the viewers!) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Virtual Ethnography? <ul><li>Hine argues that the ethnographic model is appropriate to studying practices on the internet . </li></ul><ul><li>Much of her book is concerned with thinking through the implications for ethnography in an online setting as well as describing her actual research </li></ul><ul><li>She looks at the social world of the Internet through a case study - a media event </li></ul>
  16. 16. Hine <ul><li>Uses the Louise Woodward case and the Internet events surrounding it eg </li></ul><ul><li>Supporters websites to argue for her release </li></ul><ul><li>(web users could read up on the trial,lobby the judge and review evidence) </li></ul><ul><li>News reports video and sound files </li></ul><ul><li>Web allowed you to read the results of polygraph test, listen to her cry </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion groups debated </li></ul><ul><li>Judge announced would release verdict on website </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Therefore the case provides an interesting “setting” to consider the internet at the time. </li></ul><ul><li>The ethnography is based on analysis of </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“the emergence of Internet activity to the case over time, and engagement with the producers of this activity, in both newsgroups and web sites.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hine,2000,p11 </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>“ Conducting an ethnographic enquiry through the use of CMC opens up the possibility of gaining a reflexive understanding of what it is to be a part of the Internet. This provides a symmetry to the ethnography, as the ethnographer learns through using the same media as informants” ( Hine ,2000,p10) </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>Here technology is seen as allowing relationships with the “informants” to be carried across spatial and temporal boundaries unlike traditional face to face but some might argue this raises issues of authenticity for the research . </li></ul>