Collaborate Good Times, C’mon!

Methodologies in research vary in order to greater the results of its subject, its meaning and the way it is understood. This arouses the concept of ‘Ethnography’, which can be simply defined as “the study and systematic recording of human cultures”. The fundamental aim of ethnography is to deliver rich, holistic insights into the vision and actions of people. Along with this, the characteristics of the location they inhabit are explored through the collection of detailed approaches such as observation and interviews. Hoey states, Ethnography should be acknowledged as a mutual product born of the intertwining of the lives of the ethnographer and his or her subjects”. 

With this, an ethnographic tactic was adopted by students of UOW in engaging with an older generation about the history of television. Diverse connections and memories of the television within the household were shared by those of another era. Through my analysis I was able to compare and contrast the differing attitudes and views towards subject’s recollection of television and the nature of its interaction with the home.

My interview with Ms. Cara Jones sparked up a voice of delight and nostalgia, which I found, was a reoccurring and/or juxtaposing theme with those of others. The television had not only influenced the dynamics of the room but also the dynamic of engagement, interaction and connection with other external elements. Environments varied, Ms. Jones’ memories of the television within the home brought an image of a quite laidback setting, though there was a single unit for the 5-sibling family, the viewing of content was uncensored and freely navigated. It was interesting analysing the memories of others, Sam recorded his interaction with Justine and wrote: “The moments recollected by Justine in terms of growing up around a TV were that it was dominated by the parents of the household… The lounges weren’t used by the…only the parents would have chairs.” This presents a whole new nature regarding the television and the way it was used in Justine’s case, customs stood at the end of each spectrum for both interviewees that highlight how different families were adapting and experiencing this new medium. We as students somewhat tapped into intuitive and deep human understandings of  interpretations from the accounts of our informants, which goes far beyond what quantitative research can do in terms of extracting meanings.

This arouses a new research concept coined as ‘Collaborative Ethnography’ where it is built off the relationships between parties. Luke Lassiter of Marshall University Graduate College defines the notion as an approach to ethnography that deliberately and explicitly emphasizes collaboration at every point in the ethnographic process, without veiling it. Collaboration in ethnography can describe vastly different relationships between individual researchers, research team members, the people they study, and those on whom they rely for background information, support and fieldwork data. Close interactions are vital components that piece together the theory of collaborative ethnography, “Collaborative ethnography invites commentary from our consultants and seeks to make that commentary overtly part of the ethnographic text as it develops(Lassiter, 2005). This then may present implications that could also be recognised in lone ethnography, but too can highlight special opportunities such as expanding and enhancing the way ethnographers present their works.

For example, the ways in which this methodology functions, at least two researchers observe and experience a particular setting and can compare their field experiences, thereby highlighting more than one perspective of the complex social world, “Juxtaposing the fieldnotes of one ethnographer against those of the other highlights the angles at which both researchers come to see an ever-changing set of social phenomena.” (May, McCoy, 2000) This allows the collaboration between parties to shape the research being conducted, emphasising awareness, balance and deeper insights. Practices, motives and values can be are therefore explored through multiple parties and paradigms,  whereby many research systems fail to, or poorly examine.

However, to effectively manage collaborative ethnography, deep expertise is required which many would not take into account in the beginning; one must acknowledge its challenges and that it requires time (Lassiter, 2008) . A power distance may arise between the parties through collaborative ethnography that then affects the overall essence.  This may include a subject then taking control and manipulating the information that is recorded. Knowing that their contribution is just as important as that on the other parties that then will create an imbalance in the procedure. Sensitivity issues and biases could therefore be breached, impacting the whole integrity of the work.

Though possessing weaknesses, both ethnography and collaborative ethnography have great strengths. Ethnography research provides deeper roots to the subject, acknowledging it in a more detailed sense using observation and presence. Collaboration converges elements that allow those to examine a matter with great detail and caution; it permits opinions no matter where they stand to be a part of a result whereby multiple filters have been put to use through its development.

 

Reference:

  • Buford May RA & Pattio-McCoy M 2000, ‘Do You See What I See? Examining a Collaborative Ethnography’, Qualitative Enquiry, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 65-87

 

 

  • Lassiter, L.E 2005, ‘Defining a collaborative ethnography’, University of Chicago Press, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, USA, pp. 15-24.

 

  • Lassiter, L.E 2008, ‘Moving Past Public Anthropology And Doing Collaborative Research’, Marshall University Graduate College, American Anthropological Association, USA, pp. 70-86

 

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