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 […]

Planning Basic Field Observation

When I’m sent to a setting, be it a country I’ve never visited before, be it digging through someone’s cupboard, watching them plan their next vacation, or cooking dinner with a family I’ve never met, one of the first things I do is think through how I will make sense of the environment and how […]

Doing Microethnography

Microethnography is a powerful method of research for studying practices in dynamic social systems where interactions reproduce unexplored or poorly understood conditions. It is a powerful intervention for discovering, making visible, or getting at what is happening as it happens in the interactions. Analyzing moment-to-moment interactions enables a better understanding of practices and expectations in […]

Keep Your Tools Clean

As ethnographers, we are the instruments of data collection.  While recording equipment and software packages like ATLASti are part of the collection process, we are ultimately the primary instruments of collection, analysis and dissemination.  With that in mind, it is wise to think about the tools we use before we start our work. Interviewing Tools […]

Notes About Observation

It’s Friday and I’m headed to the zoo with my daughters.  At the risk of being deemed a bad parent, I will say that I will no doubt be engaged in observation of the people and the activities with an anthropological perspective in mind – a hazard of the trade, no doubt.  But it has […]

Listening + Learning = Innovation

There are some basic principles to anthropological research that should factor into any project or business problem, whether you’re an anthropologist, a marketer or the CFO.  Frequently, they are somewhat difficult to get comfortable with, particularly if an anthropological approach hasn’t been used in the past.  But if the hurdles of getting past the accepted […]