From last week’s task I learnt a great deal of things; chief among them was that a lot of people’s grandparents loved Bandstand as much as mine did.
I also cemented the understanding that I discovered in my own interview, that which is presented in Darian-Smith and Turnbul’s 2012 book Remembering Television. Which is that we associate our memories of television with those of real-life events.
We discussed and read our peers’ interviews in the last tutorial, and not a single one mentioned that their interviewee only remembered watching The Flintstones, and thinking ‘Hey that’s a funny episode’. Or watching the 1969 Moon Landing and thinking, ‘Oh that’s cool.’.
No, they remember the fascinating new experience of colour television; of rushing to get their colouring pencils out to capture the new images of their old favourites. They remember gathering around their school’s only television, and as a whole; waiting with bated breath.
It is this conglomerate of interviews, discussions, and conversations that is truly amazing. The process to gather so much information is staggering, but the results provide an insightful window to the past, as perceived by those who lived it.
That is why ethnography is such an important part of media research; we need a deliberate, holistic approach to oral history when it comes to interviewing so many people about the same subject.
Ethnography is defined as, ‘virtually any qualitative research project where the intent is to provide a detailed, in-depth description of everyday life and practice.’ (Hoey, 2016)
So in terms of researching the daily practices of media use, ethnography is clearly the best methodology. Yet, to be able to get such an in-depth view into these practices, researchers must be able to collaborate their efforts.
As Lassiter put it,
‘To collaborate means, literally, to work together, especially in an intellectual effort. While collaboration is central to the practice of ethnography, realizing a more deliberate and explicit collaborative ethnography implies resituating collaborative practice at every stage of the ethnographic process, from fieldwork to writing and back again… Collaborative ethnography invites commentary from our consultants and seeks to make that commentary overtly part of the ethnographic text as it develops. In turn, this negotiation is reintegrated back into the fieldwork process itself.’
Now, in the example of our television history conversations, we did not have this deliberate act of collaboration. Everyone simply went out and interviewed their person, then came back with whatever stories or information they had acquired. While the discussion may be seen as a collaboration of forces, the actual research undertaken was not.
And this is the trouble with collaborative ethnography; it is a consistent, unrelenting process of collaboration. At no point can the researchers slack off in their combined efforts, because then, by definition, it ceases to be collaborative.
But that is not to say that collaborative ethnography’s negatives outweigh its positives.
It is undeniable that collaborative research is not only an important form of methodology, it is also a moral and ethical necessity in public research (Rappaport, 2008).
As one researcher put it, ‘collaboration is not only a moral choice for progressive ethnographers but a choice that makes for good ethnography’ (Lassiter, 2006).
We must as researchers, be constantly aware of our own actions, attitudes, and beliefs towards our research and research participants, it is this reflexivity that drives good ethnographic collaboration research.
Hoey, B. (2016). Definition of Ethnography | Brian A. Hoey, Ph.D.. [online] Brian A. Hoey, Ph.D. Available at: http://brianhoey.com/research/ethnography/ [Accessed 16 Aug. 2016].
Lassiter, L. (2006). Collaborative Ethnography Matters. Anthropology News, 47(5), pp.20-21.
Rappaport, J. (2008). Beyond Participant Observation: Collaborative Ethnography as Theoretical Innovation. Collaborative Anthropologies, 1(1), pp.1-31.