Collaborative Ethnography is NOT Photography

Ignore the title of this blog. It is utterly meaningless humour that is worse than a dad joke.

What is ethnography? According to the department of sociology at Columbus University, “Ethnography – or field research – is a sociological method that explores how people live and make sense of their lives with one another in particular places.” Great. So, ethnography is essentially the study of how people live and interact in different places.

But we’re not here just to talk about pure ethnography. We are here to discuss Collaborative Ethnography, which basically is the same thing. Lassiter claims, “Ethnography is, by definition, collaborative”, meaning that collaboration occurs at every stage of the ethnographic process. Research can only be conducted when collaborating with the subjects in question.

So now that we have established the concepts, let’s get down to business. Last week, we were required to write blogs on our memories of television. We were expected to interview a person older than us and ask what they could remember about television. This week we were to read other people’s blogs and reflect upon the research method of interviewing people about their memories of television.

I have found so far that everybody seems to have similar experiences. Of course, some stories stand out and are significantly different. Stories such as paying ridiculous amounts of money for a television that is ¼ of the size of the televisions we have now. Some stories detailed people have black and white dreams because television was black and white in the olden days. Other stories reflected on the magic of coloured television.

Furthermore, I found that many people used different interview styles. Whether it was a video interview, phone interview or face-to-face interview. Most people interviewed their parents or grand-parents which was interesting as their experiences detailed coloured TV’s and the privilege of owning a TV. The baby boomers generation considered themselves lucky to have at one television in their house, whereas now days it is not uncommon to have more than 2 televisions in the house. We don’t value television as much as we used to. Television was a privilege and nowadays it’s a common thing.

So how does collaborative ethnography relate to this? Well, collaborative ethnography is what we just did. Interviewing someone who had the experience in the certain place, at a certain time.

There are many strengths of collaborative ethnography. When collaborating with people, you can really paint a picture in your head and find out exactly how it was to live in that time. The experience is more real as you find out in depth the exact details and emotions of that time. Another strength is the ability to work on something together. Two brains are better than one. The idea that the piece you are working on will be less personalised and more open-minded.

However, there are also many weaknesses to collaborative ethnography. The main one is, no ones story is the same. No accurate generalisations can be made due to the fact that each person has a different experience. You are really just studying the experience of that person. It is also difficult to gather statistical and factual information, as many people do not have that information.

Overall, Collaborative ethnography is beneficial and a great way to conduct research. It examines the social and environmental aspects of media based research. Not only does it enable a more in-depth study, but it also makes the work more relatable to a wider range of people as some people may have had similar experiences.


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