Next fall, I will again be teaching my undergraduate methods course.  It is primarily a workshop course in which the students learn about and try out various approaches to gathering socio-cultural data.  It culminates in the writing of an ethnographical piece which combines their methodological experiments.  The course has been rather strong on collection of data (the primary emphasis) and writing (a writing intensive course).  However, the analysis phase has been rather weak. 

Ideally, I would like to introduce a small amount of theory into the course.  However, I don't want to change the essential workshop approach or the nature of the course.  It would be great is I knew of a very short text that succinctly the basic approaches of 4 or 5 theoretical stances and how they would be used to interpret data.  Does anyone know of such a text (articles)?  If not, if you do a methods course, how to you handle this issue?  I would appreciate any feedback.

Views: 176

Replies to This Discussion

I have lots of experience in this area, but it might be easier to chat by phone...

In the meantime, my dissertation is online at http://lgalarneau.webs.com - chapter 4 covers methods.

Nice to meet you!

Lisa
Without rejecting the idea entirely - wouldn't that be a bit like spoonfeeding?
I'm not saying it's a bad idea to give these basic examples, but from my own experience as an undergraduate student it can easily lead to shallowness in analysis...
Instead - Why not maybe take an article where such analysis was made and figure out in class how the writer did it?
For instance: Geertz's "Balinese cock-fight" or "Javanese Funeral" as examples for how ethnographic detail is converted into anthropological insight...
Well, what I will say is ethnography is such art and science, and good ethnographers create and re-create methodologies on the fly, therefore a good toolkit of approaches is key to successful research. I currently do user research lab and field studies at Microsoft, for instance, and find that a thorough knowledge of available methods is the cornerstone to thinking out of the box and developing new methods that are efficient and relevant to the problems at hand. Therefore, not so much spoonfeeding as giving you the theoretical and practical context you need to make good decisions going forward. I constantly have to defend my methodological choices as well as the data derived, but that's a good thing. ;-)

Also... validation of theory, even in ethnography, can be a useful way to narrow one's focus. I chose not to do that explicitly, but my lit review does summarize theory that has led to current thinking on my topic. Then the research is a big gnarly mess generating lots of insight and hypotheses, but little I would call concrete theory. In a way, ethnography's theory as a method is having no theory. Paradoxical, lol.

Ariel's idea is a good one, though, sort of an anthropological post-mortem or de-construction of method. Would be a great exercise... how was it done? How would you do it? What if your objectives were different?

BTW, for digital ethnography issues, I would suggest Christine Hine's book on Internet Research if you haven't already found it, plus there is a work called the 'Ethics of Internet Research' that is quite good.
Well, I teach Ethnography now to a small group.

The time is something that many teachers of Anthropology say also, I can check on me and while I follow the fieldwork from students that is important to consider. It´s how long is the time between interviews, stay in the field, and the consulting biblography, writing takes.

The time and the distribution can indicate to us a kind of way to do a reflection ethnography.

I could see researches that hide behind the table of work, reading and writting and anothers that can confuse completly in the fieldwork , and then they cannot elaborate ethnography dadas.

In another hand, the notion of time lets to the anthropologist to build the own time before and during the fieldwork in close relationship with the dadas. In this way he/she is going to see another element, a key, of the process, but not only like a product. Instead of that, it is necesray to see between the the "table and the chair" and the actions in the field.

For my students is a key.

I´m sorry about my Eglish I understand more than I can write.
saludos
Cecilia
Cecilia, if you don't mind a bit of interpretation, you make a good point. One of the defining characteristics of ethnography is the researcher's role as participant, and the relationship to the community in observation that takes much time to develop. I have started doing more longitudinal research in my current role, and find it very useful to develop a relationship with a participant over time that allows me to keep coming back, either remotely or in a lab or field study, and re-address the same questions, or present evolved stimuli.

I would also include that in our method, EVERYTHING is relevant if it contributes to the researcher's understanding. When I did my physical fieldwork around the world, I followed my nose and sought out ANYTHING that would help me understand the cross-cultural nature of online gaming: I interviewed players, academics, game companies, etc. etc. etc. Went to the Tokyo game show, hung out in PC bangs in Korea, read local magazines, watched local TV. All these things informed my understanding and synthesis, and helped me decide on narrower methods for the next phase of my project. My metaphor is first, open the can of worms, then quick! close it up again, and put a nice label on the can.

Regarding reflection, my role as a gamer (of nearly 30 years, yowza!) precedes my roles as researcher, but that's the nature of participant observation. For instance, for all the controversy associated with her research, Mead was hugely informed by her gender and female culture more broadly. But anyway, understanding these dual roles, and declaring bias, etc. require quite a lot of reflection, and often I find that my own participant data is quite valuable. A bit strange!
While I found all of the comments on this topic of interest, I apparently did not explain my issue very well. I am not asking about methods of data collecting; we already do a number of them in the course experientially and successfully. The problem deals with how to improve the level of analysis of their data in these undergraduate students. What complicates the matter is my need to do this with very limited time; I don't want to give up much of the essential nature of the course, that is the emphasis on methods.These students will all be required to take theory courses,and I don't want to turn this into a full blown theory course. But, for me anyway, good ethnographic writing and research always moves back and forth between data and theory. I would like my students to experience some of this instead of writing long, and dry, descriptions of their observations and interviews. I am looking for suggestions about how to introduce a modicum of this into the course. I suppose that Ariel comes the closest to offering a suggestion that I can use (although Geertz is notorious for writing in a way that nobody else can really imitate).
Bill, what is the opposite of "long, dry description"? To me it's a short, vivid story. And learning to transform dry data or analytic propositions into stories is a skill that will serve your students well, whatever they wind up doing with their lives. For some cool examples, look online for TED talks and pecha-kucha. Offline, consider the wisdom in William Zinsser's Writing to Learn.


Bill Guinee said:
While I found all of the comments on this topic of interest, I apparently did not explain my issue very well. I am not asking about methods of data collecting; we already do a number of them in the course experientially and successfully. The problem deals with how to improve the level of analysis of their data in these undergraduate students. What complicates the matter is my need to do this with very limited time; I don't want to give up much of the essential nature of the course, that is the emphasis on methods.These students will all be required to take theory courses,and I don't want to turn this into a full blown theory course. But, for me anyway, good ethnographic writing and research always moves back and forth between data and theory. I would like my students to experience some of this instead of writing long, and dry, descriptions of their observations and interviews. I am looking for suggestions about how to introduce a modicum of this into the course. I suppose that Ariel comes the closest to offering a suggestion that I can use (although Geertz is notorious for writing in a way that nobody else can really imitate).
@Frank Thanks for the pointer to Improvising Theory. The Kindle edition is now on my iPad. Still reading the first chapter, but I'm already impressed. If you'd like to blog about your reading of it, I would happily join in the conversation.

RSS

Translate

OAC Press

@OpenAnthCoop

Events

© 2019   Created by Keith Hart.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service