Ethnography is defined as a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures. Anthropology meaning the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind. Anthropologists Bronislaw Malinowski and Margaret Mead are often identified as important players in the beginning of the professional field of ethnography. Malinowski’s first work was done in the Trobriand Islands of Melanesia in 1915 and Mead’s first fieldwork was done in Samoa in 1925 (2013). However, Mead’s work in Samoa has now been questioned due to work done by Derek Freeman who studied Western Samoa in the early 1940s and mid-1960s (Weiner, 1983). Regardless, Mead contributed a lot to ethnography and is still considered credible to many ethnographers. Ethnography began as a study to learn about human nature, social affiliation, and the conduct of daily life (Mariampolski, 2006). Groups are typically studied in ethnography but individuals have been studied as well. Ethnography is a form of qualitative research that is subject-centered and a way to understand subjects on their own terms. It involves interacting with people in their natural settings to understand them better. When subjects are researched this way the form is typically less structured. It is not laboratory based and subjects are more comfortable in areas they are already familiar with. Ethnography relies on participation as well as observation by researchers. In this method called participant-observation, researchers must be able to participate in an activity and understand the perspective of the individuals being studied as well as observe the subjects to be able to describe them to those not a part of the group being studied. It can be difficult in that some individuals can have different experiences from others because of influences such as biases. A researcher might be repelled by their subjects, while others may make bonds with them. A researcher’s presence might also cause the subjects to act differently, not allowing accurate information to be acquired.
Ethnography is used to better understand culture in areas such as culture behavior, cultural meanings and cultural tools. Ethnographers can learn aspects of culture behavior such as a culture’s rituals, the roles of each member, and how they play. Cultural meanings can be studied as well including the culture’s symbols, signs, language, beliefs and values, attitudes and opinions, interpretations, emotions and feelings, and relationships. Ethnographers can also find insight into cultural tool’s including their physical space, technology, rules, and techniques (Mariampolski, 2006).
Ethnography requires skilled people to establish confidence and intimacy with people quickly. In order to implement ethnography successfully one needs to set aside their own beliefs and assumptions as to not cloud their mind from learning something new or focus on only proving what they already believe is true. This also includes not being judgmental. Ethnographers need to be direct and specific. Even though it may be difficult or awkward, being direct about what you want from the subjects will allow the project to go smoothly and help the goals be achieved. They need to be good listeners and sensitive to body language in order to gain the most knowledge. Ethnographers should also be friendly and make participants feel comfortable but also be professional and respectful. They should be flexible in order to change their approach if needed (Mariampolski, 2006). All of these characteristics are needed to discover the best data from an ethnography project. Ethnography in marketing can be referring to two separate definitions. Ethnography as a theory is seen as an intellectual approach or analytical framework. This focuses on the concept of culture and uses observed behaviors as the tool for classifying and explaining consumer dynamics. In...
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