Collaborative ethnographic research – give it a go!

Today, I am trying to answer the question ‘How can collaborative ethnographic research be used to analyse contemporary media used in the home?’ Being a 2nd year UNI student means that the term ‘collaborative research’ is pretty much cemented into my vocabulary. Collaborative research is coming together, whether it is with fellow students or teachers, and working collaboratively to achieve a shared goal. This week, I have learned that ethnography can play a distinct role in collaborative research. Ethnography is the scientific study of the way people perceive, describe and explain the world based on their cultural background (Oxford Journals, p. 197).

So what actually IS collaborative ethnographic research?

My interpretation of this phrase, based on online exploration, is that collaborative ethnographic research is the deliberate and explicit collaboration of the ethnographic method (Lassiter, 2005). Collaborative ethnographic research encourages open explanation from all participants in the aim to form a co-written text that establishes human beings in the context of their daily lives. This type of research provides insight into the complex nature of daily life that traditional quantitative methods of research cannot capture.

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‘Australia Muli-Screen Report’ – An example of quantitive approach to media usage that neglects factors of daily life.

Now that I have somewhat got my mind around these definitions, I will try and justify whether collaborative ethnographic research can be used to analyse contemporary media usage in the home? … Wish me luck!

Nie & Hillygus (2005) conducted a quantitative study on the impact of Internet usage on sociability. Their ‘Time-Diary’ method aimed to justify whether internet usage at home is replacing face-to-face social time or making other activities efficient i.e. online shopping (Nie & Hillygus, pp. 1-5 2005). Although the ‘Time-Diary’ method was considered highly detailed as it recorded participant’s online or social activity six times a day, it was rather impersonal and as a result did not include collaborative ethnography. This study was merely based on a quantitative approach, resulting in a lack of research determining if culture influences media interaction.

A collaborative ethnographic approach however, would generally favour a qualitative study over the previously mention quantitative research. This approach would help researchers gain a deeper understanding of individual’s experiences of contemporary media in the home. To achieve this, researchers should focus on qualitative methods such as, interviews, open-ended questions, surveys and observation over a period of time. Furthermore, collaborative ethnographic research aims to uncover a more personal approach that is based on family rituals.

Although Nie & Hillygus’(2005) study did not include collaborative ethnographic research as it failed to consider personal responses, it does not mean that collaborative ethnographic research can not be achieved to analyse contemporary media in the home. I believe that the chosen method of research is largely dependent on what the researcher is trying to achieve. In the above case, they were merely trying to discover whether Internet usage in the home is supporting the displacement theory or the efficiency theory. They did not study cultural influences. Furthermore, collaborative ethnographic research is a valuable component of traditional research as it considers the affect culture and lifestyle habits have on contemporary media usage in the home.


Nie, N.H., Hillygus, D.S. 2002, ‘The Impact of Internet Use on Sociability: Time-Diary Findings,’ IT&Society, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 01-20.

Oxford University Press 2015, Ethnography, Oxford Dictionaries, viewed 12 August 2015,

Lassiter, L.E. 2005, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethonography, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.


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