Today we’ll survey conventional ethnographic processes and methods; assess their values, ethical implications, and limitations; and begin thinking about how we might revise, supplement, and (re)design these protocols so they suit our own particular context. How do our practices of methodological design parallel those of OHNY?
To prepare for today:
- Please bring a digital device to class!
- Read Timothy Pachirat, Act 5 in Among Wolves: Ethnography and the Immersive Study of Power (Routledge, 2017): 74-131 (and if you want to know how the play ends, you’re welcome to skim through to the end!). As we discussed last week, if you’re not taken in by the (admittedly contrived) dramatic action of the book, I invite you to read through the characters’ dialogue to identify larger concerns about ethnographic methods 😉.
- Now, let’s take a more granular look at some of the methods Pachirat discusses. This might be remedial for anthropology graduate students and advanced undergraduates who’ve taken methodology classes, so feel free to skim: Jean J. Schensul and Margaret D. LeCompte, “Participant Observation and Informal Interviewing in the Field” in Essential Ethnographic Methods: A Mixed Methods Approach, 2nd ed. (AltaMira, 2013): 83-111. We could regard our in-class meetings with our OHNY partners as informal interviews! We can also engage in formal interviews; I imagine you’ve discussed formal interviewing techniques elsewhere, so we won’t cover it here – but if you’d like to consult some guides, see the “Supplemental Resources” below.
- Let’s consider: where do we see design in OHNY’s process and practice – e.g., programming and pedagogy about design, event design, service design, graphic design, etc – and how might we design methods to attend to those various dimensions?
- Might we want to design more participatory methods (e.g., photovoice, participatory mapping, cultural probes, etc) for co-generating knowledge with our collaborators? Check out the Urban Ethnography Lab’s mapping and “go-along” methods. When are such approaches appropriate? What are their ethical and epistemological implications?
- How can we observe the field as generously, multisensorially, and promiscuously as possible? What might we learn from art and design in cultivating techniques and sensibilities for capacious (yet also, when necessary, directed and purposeful) observation? Consider (at your leisure!) some of the projects, books, and kits in our “Fieldwork Toolkits” Arena channel. What about listening, smelling, tasting, feeling, and moving in the field? We can look to “sensory ethnography,” and the work of Sarah Pink in particular, for inspiration. And what should we be attuned to in digital environments?
- What artifacts might we collect in the field? Skim Jean J. Schensul and Margaret D. LeCompte, “Additional Methods for Collecting Exploratory Data” in Essential Ethnographic Methods: A Mixed Methods Approach, 2nd ed. (AltaMira, 2013): 112-133. What artifacts can we collect in virtual environments?
- Charles Briggs, Learning How to Ask: A Sociolinguistic Appraisal of the Role of the Interview in Social Science Research (Cambridge University Press, 1986).
- Samuel Finesurry, “Conducting Interviews” in Alicia R. Tyner-Mullings, Mary Gatta, and Ryan Coughlan, eds., Ethnography Made Easy (Manifold).
- Anna Harris, Andrea Wojcik, and Rachel Vaden Allison, “How to Make an Omelette: A Sensory Experiment in Team Ethnography,” Qualitative Research 20:5 (2020): 632-48.
- Alexandra Horowitz, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation (Scribner, 2013).
- Margaret D. LeCompte and Jean J. Schensul, Designing & Conducting Ethnographic Research: An Introduction, Vol. 1 (AltaMira, 2010).
- Annette Markham’s work on digital ethnography.
- Tom Martin, “Ethnographic Mapping” in Alicia R. Tyner-Mullings, Mary Gatta, and Ryan Coughlan, eds., Ethnography Made Easy (Manifold).
- Christena Nippert-Eng, Watching Closely: A Guide to Ethnographic Observation (Oxford University Press, 2015).
- Sarah Pink’s work on sensory and visual ethnography.
- Jean. J. Schensul and Margaret D. LeCompte, “In-Depth, Open-Ended Exploratory Interviewing” in Essential Ethnographic Methods: A Mixed Methods Approach, 2nd ed. (AltaMira, 2013): 134-170.
- Sensory Ethnography Lab.
- Maureen E. Sheridan, “Participant Observation in Ethnography” in Alicia R. Tyner-Mullings, Mary Gatta, and Ryan Coughlan, eds., Ethnography Made Easy (Manifold).