This week we looked at how to undergo ethnographic research, and the strengths and weaknesses that accompany involved audience research. “Ethnography is a qualitative orientation to research that emphasises the detailed observation of people in naturally occurring settings.” This form of research and discovery was new to me, to immerse yourself within your research to find what you may not have if otherwise.
Ethnography has often been used to study foreign cultures and further understand ways of life. An early example of ethnographic research on culture and way of life is seen in the film ‘Nanook of the North’ (1921), by filmmaker and ethnographer Dir Robert J Flaherty. During the film, the audience is taken with Flaherty as he uses the research technique of ethnography, and immerses himself within a family of another culture. Flaherty’s cross-culture research was beneficial in understanding their way of life. This research demonstrates that “only through living with and experiencing ‘native’ life could a researcher really understand that culture and that way of life”.
But ethnography is not only used for cross-culture research, it has a print in media research also. I have put ethnography into practice to discover what others have come to learn and understand from childhood television. Previously, I had decided to interview my grandmother to discover some common themes and attributes about television during childhood. What I have learned through the research technique of ethnography is that; the introduction of television had an incredible impact on that generation.
It is always interesting to try to understand things from another person’s perspective, especially when the individual in question grew up in a different era. Since discussing childhood memories of television in interviews, clear themes and commonalities seem to emerge throughout other conversations. Many interviews were conducted with parents or grandparents who could describe the impact that television had on society when it first came out, and how it came to evolve from black and white to what it is today.
From immersing myself in others blogs and interviews, I have learned that the development and progression that television has made is incredible, technology has come so far, to even think of not having a television in the house would be strange; What would you do to unwind and relax after a long day if there was no television?
This collaborative effort from both parties allows us to see past what has been documented about the development of television overtime, and dive into an even deeper approach to research. Through collaborative ethnography we are able to fill in the emotional gaps of what television meant to the family, and how its presence and development impacted family life.
Ethnography as a research tool can be very useful in documentation and research progress, but there can be some negative aspects that the research can offer when looking at quantitative situations or data; it is this use of quantitative research that leaves gaps that often, other contributing factors such as emotion can fill. What quantitative research can’t tell you is all the excitement of television, and milestone that it meant for technology and humanity as a whole.
Ethnography has aided the progress and development of different kinds of research, when used in the appropriate circumstances. Through ethnographic research, and analysing multiple interviews, we are able to discover how the development of television impacted, changed, and even produced media audiences; and how these media audiences have grown and developed overtime to the present day.
Randall, Rouncefield, 2013, ‘The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction’, 2nd Ed. 31.1 What is Ethnography?, Available From: < https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/ethnography > (Viewed 15th August 2016)
Bill Nichols, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Summer, 2001), pp. 580-610, ‘Documentary Film and the Modernist Avant-Garde’, Available From: < http://www.columbia.edu/itc/film/gaines/documentary_tradition/Nichols_Documentary%20and%20Avant-Garde.pdf > (Viewed 15th August 2016)
Robert J Flaherty, 1920, ‘Nala, wife of Nanook’, Available From: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanook_of_the_North#/media/File:Robert_Flaherty_Nyla_1920.jpg > (Viewed 15th August 2016)
n.a, n.d, ‘Family Watching Television’, Available From: < http://cdn.worldsciencefestival.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Family_watching_television_1958_800x494.jpg > (Viewed 15th August 2016)