Ethnography is the study of social interactions, behaviours, and perceptions that can happen within groups, teams, organisations and communities (2008, p. 512). As outlined by Reeves (2008, p. 512), essentially the aim of ethnography is to provide a detailed and holistic insight into people’s attitudes and conduct through the qualitative collection of data, such as interviews and observations. Hence, when applied to media audience research, the experience becomes collaboratively ethnographic and provides a ‘casual’ nature of data collection to occur between the researcher and participant (2008, p. 513).
Collaborative ethnography supports a “respectful and open approach” by provoking a deeper understanding of how media texts are appropriated and digested by the audience (Albertazzi, Cobley 1998, p. 389). Therefore it is through this collaboration that collective storytelling and media production can be an avenue that highlights how audience members interpret their own lifeworks. In order to achieve this outcome however, there needs to be a prominent presence of respect for audience by perceiving them as ‘active meaning makers’ (Albertazzi, Cobley 1998, p. 389). Therefore, this will creatively engage participants through a solid and unwavering foundation of trust.
When collaborative ethnography is applied correctly, gaining a deeper insight of the culture and social context that is being discussed equally benefits both the interviewer and interviewee. Therefore, as Lassiter puts forth, all parties involved become ‘active collaborators’ (University of Chicago Press, 2005). Personally I saw this concept emerge from my own interview with my dad (see previous blog post) as it more so progressed as a conversation and not a formalised interview. Obviously it is important to point out that our already developed ‘father-and-daughter’ relationship helps the whole collaboration run rather smoothly. So in regards to undertaking collaborative ethnography research with an unfamiliar person, it would be critical to develop the relationship through initiating trust and common ground.
When I reflect upon the conversation I had with my dad, I noticed how much his own interest in the subject tended to grow, even after our conversation. Simple gestures that attempted to outline the size of the television, humming the tunes to television shows and randomly professing actors and actresses names days after we collaborated, all proved that he too wanted to provide a unique account of television in his childhood.
An interesting concept to explore when referring to collaborative ethnography is the practice of ‘visual ethnography.’ Research undertaken by Christina Lammer (cited in Pink 2001, p. 16) suggests that ethnographic photography can enable researchers to develop and communicate empathetic understandings of an experience. Demonstrated through photography of her facial impressions, Lammer’s research (cited in Pink 2001, p. 16) underlines the full-body participation that collaborative ethnography can hold; hence making it an inclusive and emotive experience for both the participant, and the researcher.
When considering my interview with my dad, I wish that I perhaps recorded his interview as his storytelling encapsulated a great sense of nostalgia. Seeing small or large physical responses all added emotional and visual detail to the experiences being described. Therefore for myself, I became much more engaged in appreciating the stories of my dad’s childhood and further became emotionally engaged with the spectrum of childhood stories that he told. Ultimately, collaborative ethnography allowed myself to grasp a greater insight into my dad’s experiences; hence providing me with a much more elaborate and natural collection of qualitative, yet impressionable data.
Albertazzi D, Cobley P, 1998, ‘The Media: An Introduction,’ 3rd ed., Routledge, UK, p. 389
Lassiter L, 2005, ‘Excerpt from The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography,’ University of Chicago Press, Chicago USA, viewed on August 9th <http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html>
Pink S, 2001, ‘Doing Visual Ethnography,’ SAGE Publications Ltd, London UK, p. 16
Reeves S, 2008, ‘Qualitative research: Qualitative research methodologies, ethnography,’ British Medical Journal, London UK, p. 512-513