A little about us
Ethnography Matters is a space to talk about the blurring boundaries of our craft, where we can gain insight, advice and inspiration from those who are defining what high quality, accessible and innovative research might look like in a future that is increasingly mediated by technology.
Launched in October, 2011, we started the site as a way for us to explore the people and projects that are charting new territory for ethnography in a world much changed from the days of Malinowski and Margaret Mead. Since then, Ethnography Matters has become a platform for ethnographers and those using elements of ethnographic practice to take part in conversations between academic and applied ethnography in the private and public sector. It has become a place for listening to and thinking about the stories of ethnographers and ethnographic research participants, and for analysis and theory related to the social patterns and contexts of technology.
Why does ethnography matter?
In the specific frame of technology research and design, ethnography matters because the practice of telling user stories, exposing how technology makes us and how we make technology, can help to direct information tools in the service of human values like empathy, global solidarity, surprise and joy. Ethnography matters because it provides a mechanism for evaluating theories of “revolutionary” technology as grounded in the lived experience of people and communities. Ethnography matters because it helps to keep technological development real. Through ethnography we can expose what societies have in common and where we diverge in order to better envision human possibilities. When we understand this we can, in turn, gain a better understanding of why technology matters.
Why we started Ethnography Matters
We came together to start this blog because we believe that ethnographic research — with its focus on human experiences in context — is critical for countering the trend towards treating people as numbers, as digits, as data and as markets.
We want to make ethnography accessible to a wider audience of non-specialists. We want to show the power of ethnography when combined with mixed-method or integrative research approaches, whether in academic, public sector or corporate research. At the same time, we recognize that ethnographers need a space to talk about the new challenges and opportunities that digital tools pose as objects of study, as analytical tools, and as a medium for conducting fieldwork.
We are not a research group housed at a university or company. We are not a lab. We are not an annual conference. We are just a few people who came together to create a space. What has emerged is a community with a new geography of communication practices that falls outside of disciplines and industries. We are no different than the communities we write about. We need exposure and feedback. We need third places. We need non-formal ways to connect. When we don’t have these spaces, we risk becoming silo-ed in our own sub-fields. With this project, we hope to catalyze conversations about ethnography among a wider audience and inspire ethnographers and non-ethnographers to share and try out new methods and approaches.
I’m not an ethnographer, so….
Ethnography Matters is not only for people who call themselves ethnographers but for researchers and practitioners who use and are inspired by ethnographic methods. Our audience and guest contributors range from formally trained ethnographers to design researchers, teachers, quantitative data scientists, and market researchers.
There are many different ways to participate. You can comment on the posts. You can share interesting posts with your networks. You can send us interesting links via twitter or comment on our facebook page. You can also guest contribute. Take a look at the guidelines for guest contributors. We look forward to going on this ethnographic journey together!
Some links to articles about us:
- Here’s an article from UC Berkeley’s School of Information on the founding and vision of Ethnography Matters.