Oxford Journals defines Ethnography as a study associated with how people perceive, describe and explain the world in light of their own worldview or cultural background (Oxford University Press, 2015). This study relies on the researcher getting as close as possible to the subjects, and essentially ‘immersing themselves’ into the environment to gain insights firsthand. Ethnographic research is essentially synonymous with the qualitative field of research whereby it involves developing a deep understanding of individuals and their reasoning.
As for ‘Collaborative Ethnographic research’, Ethnography is by definition collaborative, as it requires the researcher to collaborate with the subject by means of engagement (Lassiter, 2005). It would be highly impossible for any researcher to gain any insight into a field without the slightest bit of collaboration. By doing this the research can gain an understanding of the real life contexts and subsequently can create ethnographic texts (Lassiter, 2005).
So why use collaborative ethnographic research to analyze contemporary media in the home?
Firstly, there has been a plethora of research done on the use of contemporary media in the home, however most of the research has been conducted under the quantitative method. For example, the Hillygus and Nie’s study on ‘The impact of internet use on socialbility: Time diary findings. Quantitative research becomes helpful when using stats, graphs and tables and is necessary when comparing and contrasting certain variables.
Hillygus and Nie’s study explored how the Internet affects interpersonal communication and sociability. This study was conducted through a ‘time diary’ providing statistics through comparative tables and concluded that time spent online is asocial and competes with, rather than complements face to face communication (Nie & Hillygus, 2002, p.1). While this was helpful for the study in gaining statistical data to coincide with their ‘displacement theory’, the study lacked the ability to develop a deeper understanding of the use of media in homes.
For example, if I wanted to research how many hours a child is watching TV on a weekly basis and on what devices, Quantitative is great! as it requires strictly defined variables. This method would help find such statistics through quantitative methods like surveys or the more tech savvy systems such as ‘Oztam’ or the ‘Peoplemeter’, both television audience measurements that retract viewing data.
However, if I wanted to find out the reasoning behind the choice in ‘why’ people are tuning into certain television programs which is chewing into our social time or why people engage with media on certain devices, or even why we use media devices in conjunction with other devices (watching TV with laptop on lap and iphone in hand – something we can all attest too). A collaborative ethnographic study can help us get to the reasoning behind these questions and discover why these patterns are occurring. By using a collaborative ethnographic study we as researchers are able go deeper, gain more insight and inquire more self-expression.
Lassiter, L 2005, ‘The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography: Defining a Collaborative Ethnography’ The University of Chicago Press, viewed 15th August 2015, http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html
Nie, N,H & Hillygus, D, S 2002, ‘The Impact of Internet use on Sociability: Time Diary Findings’, IT and Society, vol 1, no 1, pp.1-20 http://sites.duke.edu/hillygus/files/2014/05/v01i01a01.pdf
Oxford University Press, 2015, Qualitative Field Research, Oxford University Press, viewed 15th August 2015 http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/tropej/online/ce_ch14.pdf