What, When or How is Ethnography?

If you really want to know, read the following in this order:

  1. Introduction: Correspondences: Ethnography by Susan MacDougall
  2. Provocation: Ethnography: ProvocationWe Need More Ethnography, Not Less by Andrew Shryock
  3. Interview: Enough about Ethnography: An Interview with Tim Ingoldby Susan MacDougall
  4. Article: That’s enough about ethnography! Tim INGOLD This work is licensed under the Creative Commons | © Tim Ingold. ISSN 2049-1115 (Online)

PS. I really love what Cultural Anthropology is doing with Correspondences

PPS. Don’t comment here, join us on Cultural Anthropology


Design-Oriented Ethnography

Design-Oriented Ethnography

READ: What We Buy When We Buy Design Research

WATCH: The Deep Dive Part 1 of 3

WATCH: The Deep Dive, Part 2 of 3

WATCH: The Deep Dive, Part 3 of 3

READ: Combining ethnography and object-orientation for mobile interaction design: Contextual richness and abstract models. Jesper Kjeldskovn and Jan StageInt. J. Human-Computer Studies 70 (2012) 197–217.



We are very enamored by intelligence and knowledge, but what about ignorance?  If we compare knowledge to matter than why are we only fixated on the smallest fraction of reality? Were you aware that ordinary matter comprises only about 5% of the universe while dark matter & energy make up 95%.

Firestein has written a great book about this subject.  I invite you read the introductory chapter of this book (Firestein (2012) IGNORANCE-How-It-Drives-Science. Introduction).  Additionally, you could LISTEN TO or READ: NPR blurb on Firestein (2012) IGNORANCE: How it Drive Science as well as READ: Review of IGNORANCE: How it drives science, and WATCH: TED Talk by Firestein.

I am interested in how this issue informs the The Qualitative/Quantitative Debate (Trochim).  Anthropology is typically relegated to the social sciences, which is further relegated to the insulting epithet “qualitative methods”.

The Military Industrial Complex

We Must Guard against the Hegemo-Deductive Complex

A second comparison I am making is between Eisenhower’s Military Industrial Complex and what I am calling the Hegemo-Deductive Complex.


Military Industrial Complex:  A concept used to refer to policy and  monetary relationships between legislators, armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them. (Wikipedia)

Hegemo-Deductive Complex:  A concept used to refer to policy and methodological relationships between scientists, journal editors, and the public sector that supports them. (Jimipedia)


The Yin and Yang of Methodology 

Qualitative and quantitative techniques have their origins in inductive and deductive epistemologies.  Aside from their differences, what is most essential and often forgotten is that BOTH components are needed.


How do these issues apply to our research in anthropology?

How can ethnography be considered a truly inductive research endeavor?

PhDs and EdDs

Applied Doctorates

Many think of PhDs as strong and EdDs as weak.  I look at it differently.  My PhD is in “Applied Anthro” so I have been dealing with these sorts of issues for some time.  Rather than a single continuum from “strong to weak” or “good to bad”, I believe a better approximation would include the two continua of “authority” and “utility”.

The authority continuum begins from the positive end indicating the commanding influence of pure academic knowledge, vetted by the elite of the intellectual community and pruned to the point of perfection.  The negative end of the authority continuum represents the least reliable, spurious opinion that is equivalent to a random response.

The utility continuum begins from the positive end indicating such an extreme version of usefulness as to approach the status of “required” or “that which one cannot live without”. The negative end of the utility continuum represents a level of inutility as to represent something without any value whatsoever.

In this way, four options become available:

1. Applied Doctorates that balance authority with utility.

2. Traditional PhD Doctorates that represent the pinnacle of authority but are often not very applicable to the real world.

3. Academic Bachalors Degrees (e.g., Anthropology). Not very useful or authoritative in and of itself.

4. Professional Bachalors Degrees (e.g., Engineering) or Terminal Masters Degrees (e.g., MSW).


Visual Representations, Typologies & Taxonomies

Visual Representations, Typologies & Taxonomies

-Visual Representations of data

The Infographic

Rationale: Why use this sort of “fancy stuff”?  Are we here to learn or to be “sold a bill of goods”!!  Is there any steak in all this sizzle?  What about “chalk and talk”, bla bla bla

Column Five Media, is in fact a design firm specialising in social Public Relations.  Isn’t that a bad thing???  Well, if you buy into Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences ideas or just basic neurology, than you may see some value here (for K-12 or higher ed!).

This video sells the idea better than I can (a design firm produced it after all) http://vimeo.com/29684853#

Illustration: This is a link to an infographic that came from an Educause study about students and technology.  http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERS1208/EIG1208.pdf.


Information Design Visualisations

David McCandless: Data journalist

Watch this: http://www.ted.com/talks/david_mccandless_the_beauty_of_data_visualization.html

Visit David McCandless’ web page:




Michael Watts, “The Holy Grail: In Pursuit of the Dissertation Proposal.” (2001)

-Michael Watts, “The Holy Grail: In Pursuit of the Dissertation Proposal.” (2001, Regents of the

University of California, 12 pp.)  [Seminar Moderator:   Jim  ]

Available online: http://iis.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/InPursuitofPhD.pdf  

Highlights of Watts’ “The Holy Grail…”


Powerpoint on Watts

Focus Group Summary and Activity (Morgan)

Notes are located here:


Design an outline of a study which incorporates the following use of a focus group:

  • Self-Contained Focus Group (p18)
  • Linking Focus Groups and Individual Interviewing (p22)
  • Linking Focus Groups and Participant Observation (p23)
  • Linking Focus Groups and Surveys (p25)
  • Linking Focus Groups and Experiments (p28)

Be sure to include the following:

  • A research question(s)
  • A brief methodology
  • A plan for analysis of your collected data

Bailey ch 8 (Duncan)

Bailey Chapter 8: Field Notes and Leaving the Field

Field Notes Overview (p. 113):

  • Like keeping a journal/diary that is “teeming with detailed descriptions, paraphrased quotations, self-reflections, and profound thoughts.”
  • You must keep entries organized and type them out every night.
  • “If you are not writing field notes, then you are not conducting field research.”
  • Field notes “serve as repository for the important and no-so-important data of field research.”
  • Act of writing is “creating data.”  Methodological decisions made while writing
  • Common to feel uncertain if doing it “right.”
  • Better field notes, better final project
  • Trust process and keep writing


  • Any small tablet, notebook.
  • Journal should be a field researcher’s constant companion.
  • “In a pinch….anything will do”

Note Taking pg 114

  • Not necessary to hide, but don’t make a big production
  • To keep flow of interview, scribble quick and add more details at inconspicuous moments
  • Fine line as some subjects expect note taking or feel you are not listening/paying attention.
    • Researcher must sense whether subjects are expecting more note taking or listening.
    • Lofland and Lofland (1984)
      • Fuller jottings – writing as much as possible (as in a college class)
      • Mental notes – remembering as much as possible (does not result in level of detail in written notes)
      • Jotted notes – writing key words (must be quickly followed up with full descriptions or usefulness diminishes)

Full Field Notes (per Lofland and Lofland 1984) pg 115

  • Detailed descriptions – of observations and interactions in the field.
    • Descriptions kept in a chronological log – with exact or approximate times
    • Concrete, with tangible details
    • Focus on “raw behavior” – do not explain “why” or make guesses.
    • Be sure to specify that any “feelings” written down are interpretation of observation
    • Detailed accounts of conversations and informal interviews
    • Maintain a system to differentiate notes from verbatim quotes, close paraphrases and general recall
      • Use systems such as double quotes around verbatim, single around paraphrasing, no quotations when captured “gist”
  • Words play an important part in understanding the setting
  • Thin Notes – lack detail
  • Rich Notes – detailed
  • Things previously forgotten, now remembered – may be placed in “day recalled” or “day of event.”
  • Analytic ideas and inferences – write ideas of social meanings, inferences, interpretations of interactions, patterns.  Put all ideas, good bad, uncertain into field notes.  More analysis makes project easier to complete
  • Personal feelings – write personal feelings, people you liked and didn’t, did interaction go well or not? Emotional reactions to people and events affect them and shape interpretation.  Will help with analyzation of data but be sure to label as “personal opinions.”
  • Things to think about and do – start journal each day with “to do list” of people to speak with, missing details to gather, questions to ask.
  • Reflexive Thoughts – overlaps other categories.  Active consideration of his or her place in the research.  Observer is “always unavoidably present and necessary in field research”

Guidelines for writing Field Notes pg 120

  • Limit interactions and observations to three hour blocks
  • Write ASAP after observation
  • Do not conduct two or more observations before writing the first
  • Number of pages of field notes per observation varies.  Suggestion of 13pgs per hour observation
  • Should take as long to write out observation as it did to observe…probably twice as long
  • Always type notes from journal
  • Keep notes organized
  • Do Not trust memory
  • Backup computer files
  • Do not put off completing the field notes

Leaving the Field pg 121

  • While class assignments last days, most field research requires months or years in the field
  • Reasons to leave the field
    • Safety: physical, psychological
    • Participants no longer want you there
    • Lack of money or time
    • Not learning anything new (saturation point).  Evidenced by “things to do” portion of notes grows smaller and smaller
    • Fewer and fewer analytic insights
    • Concern for relationships.
      • Discuss plan to exit with participants and be sure you have done “all you said you would.”