Today, we would like to share our understanding and the way we go about conducting Ethnographic research at Human Factors Research + Design Let’s understand what Ethnography is? Ethnography is derived from a geek word. Ethnos means People or a nation. Graphy means I write. Hence we can say Ethnography is a study of people and cultures. Ethnography study is designed to explore cultural circumstances where the researchers observe people or culture from subject of study perspective.
An ethnographic understanding is developed through close exploration of several sources of data. Using these data sources as a foundation, the ethnographer relies on a cultural frame of analysis
Now that we have understood what ethnography study is let’s understand how it is done.
Collecting Data/Information for ethnography study are meant to record people’s ordinary activities and meanings in naturally occurring scenarios. The goal of ethnography study is to collect information in a way where researcher puts less personal thoughts on the data.
Interviews are often taped using recording mediums while also taking notes so that nothing can be missed out and availing all information later for 100% understanding and analysis. Secondary research and document analysis are also used to provide deep insight into the research topic.
In order to make the information collection and interpretation transparent, Ethnography researchers often try to be reflexive. Reflexivity refers to the researcher’s goal to explore the perspectives in which researcher’s involvement with a particular study influences, acts upon and informs such research”.
Ethnographic research can range from a realist perspective, in which behavior is observed, to a constructionist perspective where understanding is socially constructed by the researcher and subjects. Research can range from an objectivist account of fixed, observable behaviors to an interpretive narrative describing “the interplay of individual agency and social structure.” Critical theory researchers address “issues of power within the researcher-researched relationships and the links between knowledge and power.”
When to use Ethnography?
Ethnographic study is best used in the early stages of development, when you need to know more about the issues surrounding the use of a product rather than actual metrics. In the really early stages of development, when you just have an idea that you might need a product to satisfy this particular need, field observations help gather user requirements and issues for incorporation into preliminary designs.