Last week’s blog post was certainly a trip down memory lane, both for myself and my parents. Together we chatted, reminisced, laughed and debated – in space which was very positive and gratifying. Yet while it appeared on the surface I was having a casual chat and catch up with my family, what was happening on a deeper level was a prime example of ethnographic research.
Creswell (1998) characterises this type of research as “a situated activity that locates the observer in the world. It consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that make the world visible”. It is worth noting that the form of ethnographic research I carried out was a highly simplified version, as all it really entailed was a phone call and a discussion with people I am very close with. Advancements in technology have made this possible, and it can be argued that ethnographic research, particularly when investigating internet ethnography, “need not involve the ethnographer travelling physically to a field site”.
In these sense, the internet has made the premise of collaborative ethnographic research much more plausible. If the researchers no longer need to physically travel to a site of investigation, factors such as cost, time and complexity are notable reduced. Now, almost anyone has access to a wealth of information at their fingertips, and is able to form opinions and beliefs as a result of a simple Google search.
However, I agree with the ideas put forward by Postill and Pink, who argue that the “issues that internet ethnography engages with can also become particularly relevant in relation to specific localities”. That is, that it is still highly imperative for researchers to become fully immersed in the populations where research is being carried out, in order to present findings which are ethical, accurate and also original.
While this type of media research is extremely valuable, it is obviously very time consuming and costly. Take the company OzTam, for example. According to Vickery (2017) “around 50,000 people are interviewed each year with households selected to accurately reflect the breadth of the Australian population”.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for modern media researchers is the ability to measure engagement with television shows, in contrast with them just being on in the background. Social media and smart phones have such a pervasive presence in our lives. Many shows now, such as Q&A, encourage audience interaction through social media such as Twitter. However, what is more often the case is that we are engaging with our phone in an instance where it is completely unrelated to the show in front of us. How often do you find yourself sitting at home with the TV on, only to be looking at your Facebook feed or adding a filter to your next Instagram post? The video below shows some images which I am sure we are all quite familiar with.
Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Postill, J., & Pink, S. (2012). Social Media Ethnography: The Digital Researcher in a Messy Web. Media International Australia, 145(1), 123–134. https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878X1214500114