Collaborative Entho-what?

Collaborative ethnography. What a mouth full right!? But what exactly does that term mean?

Ethnography is the systematic study of people and cultures and their customs, habits and differences (American Ethnography Quasimonthly, 2010). According to Lassiter (2005), collaborative ethnography refers to practicing ethnography together, in an intellectual manner. The research method of ethnography yields qualitative results, through practices such as interviews, conversations, story telling, surveys and participant observation (Hoey, 2013).


Participant observation is just one method of ethnography              Source

Quite recently I engaged in collaborative ethnography myself, whilst conversing with fellow BCM240 students about our parents’ experiences with television. Talking to my classmates revealed masses of information about the people in their lives, their experiences, and the impact of different cultures on their upbringing and television watching habits. The conversations allowed me make note of the similarities and differences to what Mary* had told me about her experience with television in the 1970’s.

Ben’s story about his mother contained similar themes as Mary’s story in that both grew up in an era where television was initially black and white. Both Mary and Ben’s mother remember when colour television was introduced and the entire family would sit together in the living room in astonishment. The television shows that each family watched were another similarity. Ben’s mother recalls watching Countdown with her family on a Sunday night, just like Mary’s family. Both families were made to watch whatever the parents chose as well, with the children not being granted permission to change the channels.

When talking to Danielle, I came across more similarities to the experience Mary had growing up with television. Both families did not own a remote control for their televisions and were to change the channels and volume with dials on the side of the TV. There was only 1 TV in the house and each family would sit down and watch shows together. Generally the children would sit or lay on the floor in front of the television.

Engaging in these conversations revealed the value of collaborative ethnography. Ethnography draws on information that can not be researched on the internet or looked up in a book. The quantitative data that ethnography aims to collect is based on experiences, stories and the personal customs of different people and different cultures. However, I did come across some obstacles with using ethnography as a research method, the major one being memory. As people grow older, memories can become distorted and information can be forgotten or altered. This causes problems in the sense of reliability as data may not be accurate.

Regardless, collaborative ethnography is an effective method of research, allowing information to be shared between people, exchanging stories, memories and experiences. Collaborative ethnography is definitely something I will be continuing to use in the future.

Until next time,


American Ethnography Quasimonthly 2010, What is Ethnography?, American Ethnography, viewed 18 August 2016, <;.

Hoey, B 2013, What is Ethnography?, Brian A Hoey PHD, viewed 18 August 2016, <;.

Lassiter, L 2005, Defining a Collaborative Ethnography, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, viewed 18 August 2016, <;.




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