Luke Lassiter defines Collaborative Ethnography as a process that “moves collaboration from it’s taken-for-granted background and positions it on centre stage… it invites commentary from our consultants and seeks to make that commentary overtly part of the ethnographic text.” (Lassiter, 2005) Last week we were tasked with the activity of blogging about past generation’s memories’ of television, this proved to be a very good way to experiment with ethnography as a collaborative learning practice and I enjoyed the experience a lot.
I chose to have a discussion with my mother about her experiences with television during the 60’s, she lives five hours away from me on the Mid North Coast, so in order to conduct my interview I had to FaceTime her. There were a few distractions through approaching the conversation in this manner, such as her internet connection not handling the nature of the call, my dog barking in the background, my sister asking questions about what we were doing etc. but for the most part, we got through it and it was nice to spend time asking her about her life as I did not know it. In this situation it is also rewarding to see that the consultant enjoys sharing their experiences and having an input into the research that is being conducted. My mum didn’t have anything all that exciting to put forth, but she enjoyed speaking about her childhood home and letting me know about the ways that she connected with media during that time in her life.
In reading other people’s blog posts about this topic, it was very interesting to learn about all of the varying individual experiences, but what was also interesting was reading about all of the similarities. Many people interviewed their parents, who hailed from the same baby boomer generation as my own mother, and their stories and comments on the ways television dictated family life as well as the types of programmes that were watched, all lined up with what I discovered through my own ethnographic research. I found that a few other bloggers also found that their consultants did not have any real deep emotional connection to their television memories, because by the 60’s and 70’s, Tv had already been established as a normal part of home life. Those who were lucky enough to interview grandparents and others from that older generation, were met with much more engaging stories surrounding the wonder of technology and the real impact it had on shifting the dynamics of the world.
Ethnographic collaboration as a research practice works well because it has the benefit of gaining a real and honest account of an individual’s experience, compared to traditional quantitative methods of measuring media use, which have the potential to produce generalised results that don’t accurately represent the diversity that genuinely occurs with media use in the home. When a comfortable relationship is built between consultant and researcher, conversation flows easily and the research process becomes memorable. The weaknesses of collaborative ethnography lie in the nature of the conversations being had, as the personal experiences being shared may cause privacy issues that lead to consultants not wanting their information shared in the great detail it has been provided.
Lassiter, L E 2005, ‘Defining a Collaborative Ethnography’, An excerpt from The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, viewed 17 August 2017, www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html