Lets collaborate! Ethnographics and media consumption = a match made in heaven

virtual-ethnography

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Ethnographic research involves observing individuals within their culture. This requires time and research to be undertaken but in order to gather an authentic understanding of the results gained a collaboration needs to be formed with the people involved. Collaborative ethnography is an effective way to analyse media use within the home because it establishes a more personal approach with the individuals and allows the researcher to identify why and how certain media was consumed during a period of time.

Luke Erik Lasseter’s report “Defining Collaborative Ethnography” explores the power collaborative ethnographic research can have on an individuals ability to recognise and express their experiences to the researcher. Lasseter recites an experience during his study of drugs and recovery. When undertaking an interview with Mike who ran Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Lasseter understood how important collaborating with individuals within their culture was to background research and understanding. Mike was determined to support Lasseter through his study and recognise the objectives of NA. Furthermore Mike wanted to share his own personal story to support and help those who are addicts, an important element of collaborative ethnography, which can be applied to various topics including media consumption. Interviewing those directly influenced by the media enables a researcher to comprehend how individuals function differently depending on their association with the media which could be essential in identifying various elements of the media including whether certain platforms influence views on body image, how the family functions and communication as a whole.

The collaboration formed with Mike resulted in a text used “to serve both the discipline, teaching a student to appreciate the power of culture, and the local NA community, as Mike and others used the text for their own purposes”. Additionally Lasseter brings up a valuable point within his piece, by avoiding collaboration we are losing insightful wisdom from those who have first-hand knowledge and experiences, therefore in order to identify contemporary media use within the home research needs to be undertaken with families to recognise the average families lifestyle and what role media plays within that lifestyle.

The success of undertaking this approach can be seen through the interview I undertook with my father based on the influence television played in his home during his childhood. Although I could have undertaken my own research on television during the era of my father’s childhood, interviewing and working collaboratively with him provided a more in-depth and personal approach to classifying media consumption, for example, through purely observing media consumption with statistical data within that generation the loss of memories and experiences that defined the views and lifestyle of that individual is lost. My father specifically recalls one of his favourite television shows and the series of memorabilia associated with it including bubble gum cards with the various characters evident “John’s favourite show growing up was The Samurai an extremely violent Japanese ninja program, John describes it as “Absolutely sensational and it was shown at 4.30 pm… This show made you very aware of the concept of good versus evil it emphasised and reinforced what you had learned from your parents and teachers on just how to live your life as a decent and caring person, helping those less fortunate than you”. Information such as this on media consumption cannot be gained without interviewing and collaborating with those directly associated with the era or media platform. By undertaking collaborative ethnography the researcher can gain a deeper understanding of media and create a more reliable and valuable conclusion to their final results which is essential in recognising how exactly media consumption has changed and is developing currently.

Furthermore just like Lasseter’s approach with Mike, my father gained the ability to share his knowledge and experiences with myself and others who read this blog. I could see he thoroughly enjoyed recalling his past with television and how it shaped him as a human being. He was able to provide first-hand knowledge of his time, which cannot be gained through simple statistics, just like Mike he was provided with a voice to empower those who read the research and make them question how times have changed or in Mike’s case the impact of narcotics.

Evidently researchers who are interested in contemporary media use within the home can further enhance the authenticity of their results through observing actual families as it provides a genuine insight into the future of media consumption which cannot be gained through generic statistics. Although, the piece ‘Persuasive Encounters: Ethnography in the Corporation’ indicates researchers may face issues when aiming to successfully communicate the research collected, as it occurs over time, especially as the media is continually transforming.  The 2015 Australian Multi-Screen Report highlights the limitations of not undertaking collaborative ethnography. The report is purely based on statistics and provides little insight into media consumption within homes such as popular shows consumed, and the times they are watched by certain age groups. Although the statistics provided credible information in regards to popular platforms in order to understand where media consumption is heading authentic research needs to be undertaken with families especially the younger generation as they will define media consumption in the future reiterated by this statistic “Australians aged 2+ spent 6 hours and 57 minutes (6:57) per month in the quarter watching online video on a PC or laptop, down 51 minutes on the 7:48 they spent doing so a year ago”. This statistic would be more credible if AMS was aware of what media is consumed by these young children and how it plays an influence in their daily lives, for example, are those who watch educational television more advanced than those who don’t, this can only be achieved through collaborative ethnography reinforcing its importance.

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One thought on “Lets collaborate! Ethnographics and media consumption = a match made in heaven

  1. I’m curious to know more about how you connect your own research project with Lasseter’s work with Mike. Do you have a sense of what your dad gained from it too? Could you have done more (could you do something know) to thicken the collaborative aspect? I’ve been thinking this week about how we create collaborative projects in media work — the NA research seems more obvious in its potential for therapeutic or at least mutual benefit.

    I really enjoyed reading this, thank you. And THANK YOU for spelling Lasseter right, which is quite rare!

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