Friday, 5 April 2013

Late Thoughts on Ethnography

William Shaffir's essay "Doing Ethnography" got me thinking about the numerous times, in my time at the ischool, the term ethnography has come up in a variety of different courses. Most recently, we discussed it in Colin Furness' Information Architecture class as a means of studying users in order to fully understand their information needs when it came to making website schemas. We concluded that although ethnography is both as detailed and thorough as you can get, but it is too time consuming, and no company would invest in this sort of research. Shaffir ends his essay on a hopeful note saying that ethnography is becoming a tool in the professional setting, but I'd have to agree with my information arch. class about how tedious and inconvenient of a method it is for "the real world." Another thing Shaffir mentions is how much the experimenter can subconsciously affect his/her results even when embedded in the world of his/her research. This seems to be a concern that we keep coming across in different social science research methods, but how do we remedy this? For me, the results of ethnographic research can vary greatly depending solely on the experimenter and how he/she chooses to behave within the context of the practise being studied and this makes me uneasy about the method. I like the idea of ethnography but there may be too many factors going against it for me; factors that the experimenter may not even be aware of. Unlike Shaffir, I'm a lot less hopeful about the future of this method. 

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