Aim of Ethnography

As Jenna Hartel stated, the aim of ethnography is to understand the native perspective. This is interesting, because the ultimate goal is not to create new ideas, it is to understand THEIR ideas. So far, I’ve sort of contributed research to gaining new ideas for a multitude of issues. Therefore, when Hartel was discussing ethnography, this threw me off guard. Hartel stated that the EMIC perspective (insider perspective) is trying to capture/document their perspective. Whereas the ETIC perspective (outsider) is much different. The outsider needs to bracket their concepts to allow for the subject’s story to come out. The interesting example of the following was given: When conducting ethnography on some aspect pertaining to library use, if the subject does not bring up the notion of library use (or the particular thing you’re interested in), you shouldn’t ask about it. This is crazy to me! What’s the point of conducting research when you can’t even get at what you’re interested in. However, when you look at it from the broader view, you can understand how this would be a form of research in itself. It could mean something very important that the subject did not mention library use (or the topic you’re interested in). Rather than forcing it on them, you need to understand THEIR perspective, and this would be THEIR perspective. 

Verstehen: Understanding the meaning of action from the actor’s point of view. It’s entering into the shoes of the other, and adopting this research stance that treats the actor as a subject, rather than an object of your observations.

This definition ties this up very nicely. Furthermore, I’d be very interested to see how I would act while in the field. As of right now, I definitely do not have enough experience to perform a true ethnographic research study. I need to take the time to understand this form of research much further before entering the field in this manner.

Victoria Grant 



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2 responses to “Aim of Ethnography

  1. It is very true that it is difficult to remember to let the research speak for itself. I know that when I conducted an interview for INF1300 it was nearly impossible to have enough material to write the paper without asking “leading questions.” However, I found that my subject knew quite a bit about libraries, she just was not sure what it was that I was looking for. I suppose that what this teaches me is that I need to learn how to ask better questions.

    Good Post.

    Ben. S.

  2. Hey Ben,

    Thanks for your response:) Yes, I definitely agree. Maybe it isn’t learning how to ask better questions, but better planning ahead of time? Maybe before conducting an interview, if the interviewer has thought about all possible situations for off-course discussions, they can somehow construct informal methods to get back to trying to undercover information the researcher is interested in?

    Victoria Grant

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