Collaborative Ethnography

Ethnographic collaboration, as Lassiter (2005) describes it, is a process where the relationship between researchers and participants is moved to “centre stage”. Through collaborative ethnography, the process of collaboration between researchers and participants is emphasised from start to finish of an entire research project, not just at a point where information is collected. This enables researchers to achieve a more extensive and in-depth view of the people being researched and context of their research.

“While collaboration is central to the practice of ethnography, realising a more deliberate and explicit collaborative ethnography implies resituating collaborative practice at every stage of the ethnographic process, from fieldwork to writing and back again.” – Lassiter (2005)

In the BCM241 tutorial this week, we were placed into small groups to discuss the outcome of our television memory interviews from the previous week.

This process allowed me to understand the importance of collaborative ethnography, as although not related to our older relatives recollections of television, in our group we started talking about our own personal experiences with television and comparing it to the recollections recorded through our own collaborative ethnographic studies. This discussion can be used as an example of collaborative enthography, as we were asking each other questions about our experiences,  (like a researcher and an interviewer would in a proper collaborative ethnographic study), we were remembering more information about our own experiences. If this were a real ethnographic study, it would have been an excellent way to gain more context about the topic being researched.

The way in which we discussed our experiences with television can also be used as an example of how easy collaborative ethnographic study may be, therefore highlighting an obvious strength of using collaborative ethnography when researching.

Although, not everything can be perfect and collaborative ethnography does have some flaws. One of the most significant flaws being the reliability of the information provided. As the information is generally a recollection of what someone remembers or experienced, the reliability of the information needs to be assessed. Individuals can provide flawed accounts with misinformation.

This information was not mentioned in my blog, but can provide an example of one of the pitfalls of collaborative ethnography. When I was interviewing my Pop about his television memories, my Nan started telling me about the first time she got a colour television. She thought she got a colour television the year it was introduced to Australia, 1975. Although, this cannot be true as my Nan remembers not being able to pick her daughter up from school, and in 1975 her daughter was too young to have been at school. Although not intentionally flawing the information, this is an example of how collaborative ethnographic studies can be unreliable and extra historical research may be needed to clarify information provided by participants.

As discovered through discussing blog posts in class and further secondary research on collaborative ethnography, it is obvious that collaborative ethnography is extremely helpful in gaining an in-depth, context rich information helpful to studies. Although, researchers need to be careful due to possible misinformations told by the participants. This can be avoided through extra research.


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Lassiter, L. (2005). The Chicago guide to collaborative ethnography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Sangasubana, N. (2009). How to conduct ethnographic research. The Qualitative Report, 16(2), 567-573.

LukeEric Lassiter, (2005), ‘Collaborative Ethnography and Public Anthropology’, Current Anthropology, no. 1, p. 83. Available from: 10.1086/425658.

 

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