Ethnographic methods
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Ethnographic methods. observations and interviews. Interviews. First we’ll discuss the 3rd assignment… Using interviews in your research? Here are two questions that you need to think about:

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Ethnographic methods

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Ethnographic methods

Ethnographic methods

observations and interviews

INF5220 22.september 2005


Interviews

Interviews

  • First we’ll discuss the 3rd assignment…

  • Using interviews in your research? Here are two questions that you need to think about:

    • What status do you allocate to the data? I.e. what do you think about the relation between the interviewee’s accounts and the world(s) they describe?

    • What do you think about the relation between the interviewee and the interviewer?

INF5220 22.september 2005


What status do the data have

What status do the data have?

  • Geertz, 1973; p.9: ”What we call our data are really our own constructions of other people’s constructions of what they and their compatriots are up to”.

  • Van Maanen, 1979:

    • Interviewee’s constructions: first-order data

    • Researcher’s constructions: second-order concepts, which rely on good theory and insightful analysis

INF5220 22.september 2005


What status do you assign to your data

What status do you assign to your data?

  • Are they facts (e.g. about attitudes and behaviour)?

    • That is, if you have designed and conducted the interview properly, and avoided problems such as bias.

  • Do the interview give you accounts of authentic experiences?

    • That is, if you have managed to engage emotionally and achieved understanding and ’depth’.

  • Are the interviews ’jointly constructed encounters of focused interaction’?

    • Do you have your focus on how participants actively create meaning and perform during the interview?

INF5220 22.september 2005


Corresponds to

Corresponds to:

  • The three categories and their focus:

    • Positivism: prescheduled and standardised interviews

    • Emotionalism: open-ended interviews aimed at acquiring ’depth’

    • Constructionism: also open-ended interviews, reflective

  • Not one correct category, choice depends on your purpose.

    • Your practical concerns should guide your analytic position

    • Ask yourself whether interviews really help you address your research topic

(Refer to Silverman chapter 4)

INF5220 22.september 2005


A bit more on constructionism

A bit more on constructionism

  • Within this approach the interview is not (only) a source for data, but a research topic in itself

  • The ’how’ and the ’what’ issue (form and content). Ref. Silverman:

    • 4.6 Adolescent cultures

    • 4.7 Membership work

    • 4.8 Moral tales of parenthood

INF5220 22.september 2005


On interviewing and questioning

On interviewing and questioning

  • Ways to question:

    • Closed versus open questions

    • How and What-questions versus Why-questions

    • Some helpful phrases

  • Eliciting response without manipulating

  • Be aware of your own body language and engagement

INF5220 22.september 2005


Ethnographic research 1

Ethnographic research (1)

  • Origins: anthropology.

  • Focus: ’tribes’, subcultures, the public realm, organizations

  • In-depth and extended studies, ’immersion’ and ’thick descriptions’

  • Aimed at exploration (”what is going on here?”) rather than testing of theories

INF5220 22.september 2005


Ethnographic research 2

Ethnographic research (2)

  • Participant observation: what is the researcher’s identity, what is known about the research?

  • Ethical issues (e.g. informed consent)

  • Theoretical and methodological choices (access, data collection methods, focus, analysis etc)

INF5220 22.september 2005


Ethical issues

Ethical issues

  • Aim and focus: A scientific, but also an ethical issue:

    • The ’romantic’ impulse to focus on ’underdogs’

    • Do you treat the ’heroes’ and the ’villains’ equally (in analytic terms)?

  • ’Overt’ versus ’covert’ observation

  • Informed consent

  • How do you handle the data?

    • Physically: locking up tapes and transcripts?

    • Analytically: how do you consider and treat those whom you write about?

INF5220 22.september 2005


Participant observation

Participant observation

  • Problematising the role of the participant observer:

    • Confusion: ’what’ is the site?

    • What is expected from the researcher?

    • What do we mean by ’intervention’?

    • Involvement into organisational politics

  • Using these tensions and confusions as an analytic resource – showing the multiple realities and interests in the case

Teun Zuiderent: ”Blurring the center. On the Politics of Ethnography”.

Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, vol. 14, no. 2, 2002.

INF5220 22.september 2005


Deciding your theoretical basis

Deciding your theoretical basis

  • Read again section 2.6 in Silverman’s book, + section 3.4

  • Take your field notes from the observations and attempt to do exercise 3.4, (3.5), 3.6. How did you work:

    • As a naturalist ethnographer?

    • As an ethnomethodologist?

    • With a grounded theory approach?

INF5220 22.september 2005


Using ethnography in is research

Using ethnography in IS research

  • Six misconceptions (1-3):

    • Is it just about common sense? No, you should problematize things that are taken for granted.

    • Is an ’insider’ view best? Not necessarily, the task is not to replicate the insiders’ perpsectives

    • ’Anything goes’ in terms of methods? Preformulated study design are avoided, but epistemological discipline and systematic method are pursued

Diane Forsythe: ’”It’s just common sense”. Ethnography as invisible work’

Journal of CSCW, vol. 8 (March 1999), no. 1-2, pp. 127-145.

INF5220 22.september 2005


Using ethnography in is research1

Using ethnography in IS research

  • Six misconceptions (4-6):

    • ”Doing fieldwork is just chatting with people and reporting what they say”. No, people’s views are data, not results. Understanding and analyzing.

    • ”To find out what people do, just ask them”. Well, the predictive value of verbal representations and the generality of short-term observations are questionable. Complement with extended observations.

    • ”Behavioural/organisational patterns exist, we must just discover them”. Not a matter of ’looking’, the expertise rests with the analyst, not in the recording technique.

Diane Forsythe: ’”It’s just common sense”. Ethnography as invisible work’

Journal of CSCW, vol. 8 (March 1999), no. 1-2, pp. 127-145.

INF5220 22.september 2005


Bardram and bossen

Bardram and Bossen

  • A case study using ethnographic methods, with the aim of ’informing design’ (i.e. not purely descriptive)

INF5220 22.september 2005


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