Collaborating with Ethnography


Quantitative research is a logical, quantifiable method of research commonly used to gather information in a statistical and numerical manner (Babbie, 2010). While this approach can successful in numerous ways, however is it the most effective and beneficial way to gather data? Quantitative information gives us matter-of-fact, methodical findings, but it also illustrates a sterile, emotionless results which, to the average individual, is meaningless.

Ethnography adds a third-dimension to the field of research. According to Ebrahim, ethnography is a ‘discipline that studies the processes associated with the way in which people perceive, describe and explain the world.’ It can be thought as a process that incorporates personal perspectives of the world in order to derive significance of a situation (Ebrahim, 1995 p.197). This concept can be further expanded with the concept of collaborative ethnograophy which simply is an extension of ethnography in that it ‘deliberately and explicitly emphasizes collaboration at every point in the ethnographic process’ (Lassiter, 2005)

When analysing the use of contemporary media within our homes, collaborative ethnography gives us the best insight into the true essence of media, its individual consumption and its constant development in a way that statistical data and graphs from quantitative data can’t. Sure, quantitative data can reveal cold, hard facts of who watches what television programs and how often, but depending on the type of research you’re undertaking it also has its faults. Television in particular, can be on yet not even be watched. Personally, sometimes I leave the TV on just to fill the silence; other times I mute it; other times I’m paying more attention to other media platforms. But for all the ABS, OZTAM or other statistical organisations know, I actually enjoy watching reruns of ‘Mork and Mindy’…. ENHHH. No. You are the weakest link.
Collaborative ethnography fills this gap in the research process, allowing us to further appreciate and authenticate findings by providing emotional insights into personal media consumption and how they make people feel.

Through last week’s blog post, interviewing my dad on his personal experience of television revealed more than just the date, time, price or coordinates of his association with TV; it evoked feeling, nostalgia and memories of significance. None of these results could have been achieved merely from quantitative research. It can be thought that his words helped me form my words as, through a collaborative effort, I gained a far greater understanding of television in a different age.

– Babbie, Earl R. The Practice of Social Research. 12th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage, 2010; Muijs, Daniel. Doing Quantitative Research in Education with SPSS. 2nd edition. London: SAGE Publications, 2010.

Ebrahim, G & Sullivan, K (1995), ‘Qualitative Field Research’, Mother and Child Health: Research Methods, Book Aid,

-Lassiter, L (2005), ‘Defining a Collaborative Ethnography’, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography,, viewed 19/08/2015, <;


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