Collaborative Ethnography At Home?

Ethnography is the study of how people see and make sense of the world (Northey, 2012). This method focuses on understanding a person’s culture from their point of view (Mother and Child Health: Research Methods, n.d.). Learning about a person experiences in their daily life and how they react to different social situations. This allows the collection of data to be more personal. As it gives a more detail outline on why a person would act the way he or she is. Collaborative Ethnography, according to Lassiter (2005) talks about how the interaction/observation with the audience begins from project conceptualization, to fieldwork and in the writing process.

Collaborative ethnography research can be used to help analyze contemporary media at home by understanding how people change their habits and consume themselves in to the media. Last week’s blog post about television then is a good example of a collaborative ethnography. As it included interviewing a person directly which allows them to not just limit themselves from the question itself. They can expand from it, giving not only the answer but also their emotional and behavioral responds about it.


Another way to use collaborative ethnography research at home is to observe how the people in the house react to media. Quantitative data by Nielsen (2015) on Australian Multi-Screen Report showed that television is still the highest used media in Australia, with the rise of laptops, tables and smartphone. However during my tutorial class some had mention that they turn on the television as background noise. No one is actually watching it but it is left on to shadow the fact that no one else is at home. This would create an assumption that the data being gathered is not accurate.

With contemporary media being used so frequently people can’t just sit down and do one thing. If collaborative ethnography research can be conducted at home, some aspects to observe that can be done are people actually paying attention on the television? Are they being distracted from something else such as their phone? During the advertisements do they actually watch it or are they doing something else till it passes? From these simple observations more accurate data can be acquired. Another method to gain richer information is to interview the people at home on why they participate in these actions. Is it because of habit? Is it because the whole family does it that why the person may be pressured to do the same? Is the program they are watching not entertaining in which case why watch it in the first place?

As Flynn stated that one of the biggest drawbacks in observation is the chance of people changing their behavior due to them being observe (1986, p.27). So how to we solve this issue? How I would approach this problem is to first immerse myself with media before stepping into the observes home. The reason for this action is to simple show yourself to be a “busy person”. When people see you to be preoccupied they would normally ignore you and continue on doing the things they would normally do ,hopefully. The whole point is to be ignored and with that an observation can be conducted with a more natural vibe. For example, if my mother’s friend comes over to the house and I see her chatting and doing her own thing. I would continue doing my own things as well. Sure a “Hi, hows it going” will come about but after that things resume as normal. The key element to observe someone is to be able to blend in with the surrounding space, in this case the media space. This helps to achieve a “we are on the same boat” atmosphere. 

As a conclusion collaborative ethnography research can be used at home to better understand contemporary media. Although people still debate if this research method is good enough, it would be a mistake to overlook it. As this research method does introduces a better understanding of people. People can be more natural due to them being in their comfort zone. This allows a better opportunity to understand their behavior and what motivates them to do certain actions.


Flynn, R. (1986). An Introduction to Information Science. [online] Google Books.

Lassiter, L. 2005, Defining A Collaborative Ethnography, University of Chicago Press, viewed 12 August 2015,

Mother and Child Health: Research Methods, Journal of Tropical Pedidatrics Qualitative field research, pp. 196- 197.

Northey, M, Tepperman, L, & Albanese, P 2012, Making Sense : A Student’s Guide To Research And Writing : Social Sciences, n.p.: Don Mills, Ont. : Oxford University Press, c2012., UOW Catalogue, EBSCOhost, viewed 16 August 2015.

Nielsen, 2015, Australian Multi-Screen Report Quarter 1 2015, viewed 10 August 2015,


3 thoughts on “Collaborative Ethnography At Home?

  1. I’ve got a question that’s come up in ethnographic projects I’ve worked with: how does the researcher enter the home without changing what people do? What kinds of methods would work better there?


    • I think one of the possible methods to use is the researcher him/herself to constantly be using their devices as well when they enter into the home. Reason being is so they view you as a “busy person” which they will then leave you alone to do their own things. Once they ignore you, they would continue their normal habits or at least I would hope so. Hopefully then the observation can be conducted.


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