Ethnography is a descriptive account of social life and culture in a particular social system based on detailed observations of what people actually do. It is a research method that is used by sociologists often when studying groups, organizations, and communities that are a part of a larger complex society, such as religious cults, ethnic neighborhoods, or urban gangs.Traditionally, ethnographies have focused in depth on a bounded and definable group of people; such as the Nuer, or a particular North Indian village.
Today, they are just as likely to focus on a particular aspect of contemporary social life; such as new reproductive technologies, the meanings of the veil, virtual communication, or being a Milwall football club fan. The concept of ethnography has been developed within social anthropology; but the term is now sometimes used in a looser way in for example opinion and market research.
Related Journals of Ethnography
Arts and Social Sciences,Anthropology, Journal Ethnography & Education, Ethnography, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Studies in Educational Ethnography.
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ANGUS BANCROFT: My name's Angus Bancroft.I'm a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh.I research alcohol use, drug use, and human trafficking.In today's tutorial I'm going to be talkingabout using video diaries and video ethnographyin qualitative research.Today I'm going to be talking about three points.The first point is understanding the practical challengesin using this method.I'm then going to be looking at the ethical and epistemologicalissues involved.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: I'll ten move on to looking at howyou can use video methods and data collection.So, video diaries and video ethnographyare two different kinds of data collectionyou can use involving video methods.Video diaries are simply where people record themselvesspeaking to camera on topics that as a researcheryou might have set for them, or they might be very much moreopen about different aspects of their lifethat they're interested in talking about.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: Video ethnography means the participantsin the research collecting video data-- documentary dataon different events, different activitiesthat they might be involved in.So in a way it's like ethnographybut without the ethnographer.So they record documentary video on their social lives.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: Sometimes on different aspects than youmight have suggested to them.Sometimes on aspects of their livesthat they're themselves interested in recording.One of the benefits of both video diaries and videoethnography is that most people have access to video recordingdevices around their home.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: And these might be smartphones, for example.They might be other kinds of video recording devicesthat people often have such as Go Pros or other fairlyinexpensive video recording equipment.Or snap cameras, for example, whichusually have a video recording function to them.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: Using the method of video diaries and video ethnographyrequires good planning and preparationinvolving the participants in preparingthem to collect this data, and ensuringthey have the right technical skills, the right equipment,and that they understand what's expected of them.It's very easy to collect willy-nillybut it's important to structure your data collection.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: Ensure the participants understandwhat's expected of them, what they're expected to record,and how they should share with youas well because this can often be remoteand this can be done virtually.But again it's important that the people who are involvedhave the right skills, the right access to be able to do that.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: So when using this method, a variety of data typescan be recorded.These might be diaries.They might be interviews.They might be video ethnography.They might be participant observation.They might be non-participant observation.And so it could be used for a variety of different datacollection.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: And the important point there is to select the kind of datacollection that you want.You want to encourage people thatwill collect the right kind of data for your project.There are a number of ethical issues involved.And they're obviously the normal ethical issuesinvolved in any kind of research,which involves getting the consent of those involvedand ensuring they're fully informed to whatare their research involves.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: It also means ensuring that basic care istaken with the possibility that people will be identifiedas part of the research.It's more difficult to anonymize video databecause it has people's images on it, and that has to be done.It has to ensure that people's own voices aren'tassociated with their identity.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: And it can be very easy for people's identityto be revealed through this method.So data security is very important.Ideally data should be held on an encrypted drive which onlythe researcher has access to.So care has to be taken about how this data is sharedand whether it is secure.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: It's very easy to assume that video material representswhat's real and the one true and real account of what'shappening.What we found in our study is that's not the case.Of course people naturally selectwhat they're going to record, and that'sone issue to take into account.Also, the camera itself is selective.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: It maybe won't record a full sceneand what you might read from it might notbe what the person recording it meant you to read from it.It might not be what the people involvedmeant you to read from it.So like any other data, video data is open to interpretation.That's the epistemological challenge,it doesn't just represent what actually happened.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: People have different perspectiveson the same bit of video data, and thatrequires care taken when interpreting and analyzingthe data.So on the issue of interpretationand representation there are number of practical activitiesyou can do to ensure that you're not just drawing whatyou want to from this data.That can involve reviewing the data with the people whohave recorded it, and of course with other researchers as well.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: Reviewing it in different situationsand with different people is a really good wayof understanding the different perspectivesand interpretations there might be.It's important then to kind of keep your data alive.Not just to transcribe it and thenforget about it thinking you've got the whole meaning from it,but return to it and reinterpret it.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: Read it through.Review it and ensure that you're not simplytaking one reading from it.In conclusion, this is a very useful method.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: It's a very good method of collecting lotsof very rich data-- very open, very profound data often.It has to be treated with care.We have to recognize the ethical risksand the methodological challenges, as well.It can't just be treated as a single true account of events.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: And we have to recognize that as with any other qualitativedata, there are many perspectives on what'shappened.So a process of checking and rechecking.And collecting data from different people involvedin the same settings sometimes is a very good wayof checking that.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: But in conclusion, it's a very funkind of way of data collection and itcan involve some very interesting and very novelfindings.To find out more about using this methodI'd suggest you look at Andy Alaszewski's UsingDiaries for Social Research.Goggin's Playbour, Farming, and Leisure,which is really about crowd sourcing the dataand about involving ordinary people in your own researchwork.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: Law's After Method: Mess in Social Science Researchis a great reading for helping youaccept just how you complicated and messy data collection is.And not worrying about that fact.Not expecting the data just to produce its own story for youconveniently, but understanding that this data is alwaysgoing to be messy and it's somethingthat you have to draw out the meaning of yourself.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: And finally, Marres The Redistributionof Research Methods is a great readingabout the kind of political and ethical advantagesof this kind of research.How we should be really encouragingthe widest possible distribution of these kind of methodsso people can make use of them in their own livesand they can make use of them as partof maybe their own political or social or citizenship activity.
ANGUS BANCROFT [continued]: This is really a method that can be used ideally by anyone.