Mundane Media

‘In the communities in which we work, study, or practice, we cannot possibly carry out our unique craft without engaging others in the context of their real, everyday lives.’ (x)

This poignant statement by Lassiter beautifully summarises the very nature of collaborative ethnography – researchers would be nothing without their audience. This includes both the extraordinary and the mundane.

From reading other people’s blog on television memory research, I have seen a strong connection to family.

‘The quintessential image of the television audience is of the family viewing at home – children and parents sitting together comfortably in front of the lively set.’ (x)

What could be more simple than being with your family? The results from consulting with family members were not simple – as it turns out, parents and grandparents are sitting on a gold mine of interesting anecdotes, cautionary tales, and plain old history.

‘Many ethnographers have emphasised collaborative relationships between professional researchers, not necessarily between researchers and their collaborators.’ (x)

Lassiter questions the validity of research that only utilises professionals speaking to professionals – I would question it too. What is the point of undertaking research on a community without input from a variety of individuals from said community?

‘Collaborative ethnography pulls together threads of collaboration between ethnographers and their consultants that have found their way into ethnographic field methods’ (x)

The same sentence in the context of the task my peers and I were asked to complete:

Collaborative ethnography (topic: television memory research) pulls together threads of collaboration (blogging) between ethnographers (lecturer/tutor) and their consultants (university students) that have found their way into ethnographic field methods (studying BCM).

The strengths of this approach to collaborative ethnography are many. The time-frame of the research task was one week (give or take); there are a variety of responses from a similar age group (19 – 24), a mix of men and women, and a cross section of many different ethnic backgrounds. This reflects on the idea of the ‘unique craft’ of engaging with audiences in their everyday lives.

However, for the same reasons there are weaknesses in collaborative ethnography. Unless the researcher was strictly conducting their research on the experiences of television memory by university students aged 19-24, there are limitations in the pool of responses – especially for a large scale research project.

And of course while there may be common themes indicating a opportunity for further research, there may be an influx of left field responses that could leave the researcher with loose ends.

Overall however, I believe the strengths outweigh the weaknesses. In doing this task, it was revealed that there was a strong common theme of family ­– not only does this give ethnographers an indication of possible research fields and topics, but shows audiences that their normal and mundane lives are part of a larger experience and not so mundane after all.


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