This week we’re diving deeper into the details of ethnography with a focus on observation and autoethnography.
Observation is obviously a well-established and foundational part of research and our readings this week emphasise the importance of making observations with an analytic framework, knowing that we’ll be using these observations and ethnographic research with the goal to develop our final research project. Some of these frameworks include: description as analysis, where researchers describe what they experience; inductive analysis, where specific observations are used to back broader, more general concepts; and constructionist analysis, where the goal is uncovering meaning-making processes rather than trying to find ‘objective’ data or information (Marvasti 2014, pp. 359-362)
Carrying out the actual observation requires access into the field and a way to record and collect information in order to analyse it later. This kind of participant observation can also be thought more as a methodology than just an act or method, more of a contextual framework for research since we can consider the historical and social context in which it took shape as a way to do research (Dawson 2002, p. 101, PDF).
All of these resources around the theoretical frameworks around something as seemingly simple as ‘observation’ helps to frame my own research into my media niche and remind myself to keep thinking in this ethnographic way.
We’re also conducting autoethnographic research, which is also important to consider its analytic frameworks for our own projects. Anderson describes analytic autoethnography as including complete member researcher status, analytic reflexivity, narrative visibility of the researcher’s self, dialogue with informants beyond the self, and commitment to theoretical analysis. Some of the ways this applies this to my project means engaging with vlogs as a viewer and creator, considering my own qualities and context and how that affects what I watch and make, and make use of the theoretical analyses around ethnographic research.
We were tasked this week to map the network of our research field site, which as we know, is not a single physical or online space, but a network of relationships between actors, both human and non-human. I’m actually also learning about actor network theory (ANT) in another sociology class I’m studying, so that’s cool. I made a quick time lapse of myself drawing out this network and some of the key actors in the media niche of lifestyle vlogs. I was worried there wouldn’t be much to it at first, but as you can see, there’s a lot of different factors at play involved in this form of media content.
The skills I’m able to develop through this ethnographic research are useful for my career goals in design, editing, and digital media literacy, especially in Adobe programs like Premiere Pro and Photoshop. The actual act of journaling and recording things in my life could also benefit me in the same way journaling in general can, like helping to achieve goals or finding inspiration.
Linking back to the key concepts from this week, part of this mapping process led me into the direction of how I would record my observations from this media niche throughout my project development. I realised it would be interesting to record specifically if I made any behaviour changes, either in response to watching a vlog or during my autoethnographic process of creating my own vlogs. Also considering how I feel and think while I watch/make vlogs would be of use as well, and reminding myself of the analytical frameworks around observation ensures that I make my best effort to record really rich and descriptive data.