I want you to consider any research articles you have read lately, – whether it was on climate change (I hope it was), on how Facebook might be making us depressed, or on why people wear makeup (surprisingly interesting) – whatever it was, consider how much of the paper was based off quantitative research and heavily relied on charts and graphs. Now, consider how much of the research involved collaborative ethnography. ‘Never heard of it,’ you say? Not for long.
Collaborative ethnography is research that involves both the researchers and the collaborators partaking in constant mutual and collaborative engagement throughout the entirety of the study. This yields a greater and more involved relationship between the researcher and the people being researched; collaborators are not only part of the research, but they also receive something in reciprocal for the study. The result is a study that is co-written by local communities of collaborators which considers multiple audiences outside the confines of academic discourse; in this way, it often surfaces more accurate findings of social environments and a deeper and more contextualised understanding of relevant issues.
A relatively simple example of collaborative research can be seen in my previous post where I interviewed my mum about her experiences of television growing up. This study was collaborative in a number of ways: importantly, the interview acted as a reciprocal experience as my mum was glad to be able to help me out in any university work, and because she also got to share some pretty special childhood memories with me. Acting as a sort of reminiscing conversation, the conversation allowed me to hear about my grandma’s everyday life, something I had no idea about as she sadly passed away when my mum was very young. Additionally, each student studying BCM240 also interviewed someone about their television memories, and so all of these experiences can be pooled together to collect emerging themes and question — a perfect example of collaboration at a very deep level. If this research was conducted quantitatively, it would’ve been very difficult to conduce results that involved so much of the emotional responses that came out of many interviews.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of quantitative research (gotta love a good fun fact statistic) and I am certain that quantitative data could add depth to a lot of these television research reports, (data like how many people owned a TV, how often they watched it and so on) but collaborative ethnography has the ability to fill the gaps that quantitative research simply can’t and so I believe individual stories of media space experience really should matter to commercial researchers.