Ethnography vs. Contextual Interviews: Methods Matter

Methods matter. It’s often assumed that an open-ended interview is ethnography and the reasons for the confusion are understandable, but an ethnographically-informed approach, which a contextual interview can certainly be, is not the same thing as a true ethnographic project.  Contextual interviews, which rely on self-report data, and ethnography, which focuses on observed data through […]

The Importance of Learning Participant Observation

Teaching and learning is interactive. Despite the fact that learning is all-pervasive in our life, there is no single, universal theory of how people learn. There are two major schools of thought concerning the learning process: one consists of behavior theories, the other of cognitive theories. Cognitive theorists view learning as a function of purely […]

Concepts of “Home”

I grew up on the edge of the Great Plains. To this day, there is a smell that comes with the arrival of summer that is unique, I’m in awe of a thunderstorm as it rolls in, and I am a bit uncomfortable when there are too many trees around. The plains are home. So, […]

Why REAL Ethnography Still Matters

Fieldwork takes us to strange places. It allows us to come face to face with unexpected moments of both clarity and confusion, which can, in fact, spark innovation. I once spent a day with a 29 year old man who made about $600K a year running all things web-related for a major clothing designer. He lived […]

Moderating vs. Learning

Let me state that I am not a moderator. At least, not a traditional one. I am an ethnographer, an anthropologist, and a strategist. And while both moderators and ethnographers speak to people, they are not the same thing. This isn’t just a matter of semantic difference, it is at the heart of how practitioners execute their […]

Obsessing Over Bias

Recognizing and understanding research bias is crucial for determining the utility of study results and an essential aspect of decision making in marketing. Research plans that lack clear mechanisms to minimize bias are unlikely to be viewed favorably and the end results dismissed. But what are the rules for qualitative research studies? Whenever I am […]

Ethnography, Training, and the Perils of Ethno-Lite

We have a vast spectrum of methodologies at our disposal these days, from attitudinal approaches through to behavioral. From big data to semiotics to ethnography. We also have a wide interpretation of what these terms mean. So let’s talk about ethnography briefly. What ethnography does, or should do, is uncover meaning and complexity through a […]

Client Buy-In: Selling Results Before Methods

As I’ve written about before, “ethnography” is a loaded word for many people, including clients. It is presented as everything from in-home interviews to mall intercepts to participant observation.  And while I am an unquestionable advocate for defining in terms of participant observation and the kind of deep-dive research that involves far more than just […]