Yeah… that’s exactly what I though when I first heard it too. So what is ethnography and why should we care? Well they are the questions that I’m answering today, and more specifically how collaborative ethnographic research can be used to analyse contemporary media used in the home.
As a media student, I hear a lot about and perform collaborative research often. For those of you who don’t know, collaborative research is the working and coming together with other people in order to achieve a shared result or outcome. Well as I now know, the term ‘ethnography’ plays a large role in this type of research.
Ethnography can be defined as the “study of social interactions, behaviours, and perceptions that occur within groups, teams, organisations, and communities.” The aim or goal of ethnography is to provide detailed insight into people’s views opinions and actions, as well as the culture, sights and sounds of the location that they live, through information from detailed observations and interviews (BMJ,2008)
To obtain the best results possible, researchers should aim to work collaboratively. Participating in collaborative ethnography helps bring in a qualitative or personal angle to research in order to compliment quantitative data and allows the audience to obtain more information to analyse results and findings.
But is ethnography a good form of research when discussing contemporary media used in the home? I will discuss this is relation to two articles that I analysed in class today.
Firstly, Nile & Hillygus (2005) conducted a research article ‘the impact of internet use on sociability: time- diary findings’. The article “explores the complex ways in which the Internet affects interpersonal communication and sociability.” (Nile & Hillygus, 2005) They use a ‘time-diary’ method to analyse whether internet usage in homes is in fact replacing face-to-face social time with others. This method of documenting was highly detailed, regularly recording participants online activity, but was quite impersonal and factual. It did not feature any ethnography research and was therefore lacking in the ‘why’ and ‘how’ elements of the article. An ethnographic approach to this article would allow audiences to understand their reasoning and cultural influences within the trends.
Secondly, OZTAM’s article, ‘The Australian Multiscreen report’ aims to update audiences of new household technologies and trends in major age groups who view media. This article is useful in demonstrating a broad view of contemporary media in the home through the use of quantitative data but leaves the audience asking questions and doesn’t add that personal approach. In this case, ethnographic research could add to the article by being able to question the age groups and their views behind the media devices that they use and why they use them, giving better insight into these trends.
Researchers can perform ethnographic research by conducting interviews both one-on-one and focus groups, conduct surveys or through observation.
From these articles, it can be seen that quantitative data provides accurate data but without the collaboration of ethnographic research fails to include a personal approach. It can be concluded that collaborative ethnographic research is an important component in research, as it considers the affects of cultural, social and lifestyle influences and how this can affect media usage in homes around Australia.
BMJ 2008, ‘Qualitative research methodologies: ethnography’, thebmj.com, viewed on 19 August 2015, <http://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a1020>
Nile, N.H., Hillygus, D.S. 2002, ‘The Impact of Internet Use on Sociability: Time-Diary Findings’, IT&Society, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 01-20.
Regional TAM, OzTAM, Nielsen 2015, Australian Multi-Screen Report, OzTAM, viewed 19 August 2015,