Collaborative Ethnography

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Research methods have the same variation as things that are presently available to be understood further, and one of these techniques is a practise called Ethnography and can be defined as “any qualitative research project where the intent is to provide a detailed, in-depth description of everyday life and practice.” (B.A, Hoey 2000-2016). It allows the researcher to understand how human behaviours and cultural paradigms are built that allow phenomena to be viewed from the subject its studying. For example, with an investigation on the history of the television, an ethnographic research tool would be to interview a subject around the intended era and allow their narratives to influence the showcase of the report. From these stories and accounts, further research into cultural normalities of that period of time can make further reading on the initial first hand evidence of the subject.



From this research methodology we are given two new terms in Collaborative and Reciprocal which both has slightly different approaches in terms of the interaction with the subject when discussing a topic. Collaborative ethnography sounds very similar to what it is, according to Lassiter “implies constant mutual engagement at every step of the process” (Lassiter, 2005). Essentially alluding that there’s a mutual agreement or decision of what’s wanted at the end of the process material or emotional or something as simple as letting the subject review the finished findings or their own responses and how they’ve been organised. In terms of reciprocal ethnography Lassiter’s reading suggests something in return for participating in the act of communication research is negotiation between both parties. He does further on this to detail how the method can restrict the amount of information and duration of the interaction, by the extrinsic rewards a guarantee nonetheless.

Collaborative ethnography relies heavily on the mutual relationship, I believe, with the subject and the researcher. Lassiter describes a challenge associated with this system thus, “the coproduction of texts by native consultants” (L.E, Lassiter 2005), ultimately, some of the individuals might start taking the control away from your independent organisation of data and start to dictate terms in areas of layout, text included and what’s published. This can take away your own branches of research afterwards and affect the results perhaps with their lack of presentational skills or research accreditation.  Perhaps another challenging implication when putting collaborative ethnography into practise is the range of field experience shared across those involved. This idea could simply be referred to as the researcher and the subject being informal in their delivery which really doesn’t capture the content needed to produce factual or valid points to conclude a point. In a collaborative ethnographic research meeting, those involved are usually in agreeance to fulfil mutual engagement, this can also identify as a problem in terms of “the angle in which research is undertaken” (H, Cavanaugh 2013). If both parties are showcasing only one point of view, then there is no dissent in the topic. Even though there’s not always a need for both sides, sometimes collaborative ethnography doesn’t even give it a chance to be debated.

Moving into a focus on the potential for ethnographic research, I’d like to detail the interview I’ve recently conducted about the history of television and the media spaces that have evolved with society over the years. By allowing my interviewee to recount details of the television habits of her family growing up, I was able to be given an insight into differing perspectives, values and positions of power as well as themes including spatial arrangement, young vs old and family dynamics. Discussing other people’s experiences with the subjects they conducted research alongside, a lot of similar responses detailed that during the period of time their parents were growing up, the parents of the house would have complete control of the viewing space. They would also assume power dominant positions in the room, require physical movement to change volume or channel and the idea that TV viewing was a treat or a special occasion that was marvelled by all family members (not least the children)

Collaborative ethnography could have seen a mixture of responses if applied to this exercise rather than simply Q&A style. I conducted the research with my mother, so the idea of mutual engagement could have seen the “clean up” of exaggerated talking and different strands the interview took. According Cavanaugh, (collaborative ethnography) allows “community sustainability” which can be applied as an overview of a society to allow growth and advancement of the particular subject. In terms of the television space, this could be linked to how the trajectory of the TV has arguably shaped the way families interact and are showcased to entertainment as well as the times and permissions involved, thus “…role of ethnography being flexible and somewhat interchangeable with the role of the facilitator” (H, Cavanaugh 2013).  By conducting ethnography to areas of society and media, the researcher can draw connections to areas of change by being passive or neutral in their receiving of feedback.


LeCompte M.D & Schensul J.J, 1999, Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research, Rowman Altamira, Lanham.

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

HCC19, 2013, The Case for Collaborative Ethnography, SlideShare, viewed 13th August 2016, <>

Hoey, B.A 2000-2016, What is Ethnography, Brian A. Hoey PHD., viewed 13th August 2016, <>


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