Collaborative or Unique, or Both?


Collaborative ethnography.

Well, what a hard topic to write about. With international students like us, believe me, we don’t even have a clue what it means. Nevertheless, we study what we haven’t known and read to enhance our knowledge. I have read a number of scholars to try and find out what they try to tell us by saying ‘collaborative ethnography’. Although the meaning of the term is, still, not clear enough, a vague idea around it has been developed and caught my attention.

From my perspective, collaborative ethnography can be considered as one of the effective ways to conduct a research. I also realised that myself, unexpectedly, had also used collaborative ethnography as my way to conduct an interview with Mom two weeks ago when writing about her very first memory of watching TV.

Collaborative ethnography, every now and then, is considered as “the communication between the investigator and the people being studied” (Lassiter 2005). A relationship between the researcher and their consultants, in this case, is formed and the researcher becomes a part of the situation they’re exploring. When I talked to my Mom about her memories on TV, I as a researcher had left things (like script and questionnaire) behind to really start a conversation with her. Listening to her telling stories, I was swept away back to the old days and living in the world that I had not yet imagined I would one day hear about it. I then used those details Mom had given me to write up a blog and reflect it on my continuing blog sequence about understanding the media, audience and place. Engaging Mom and her memories (together with her knowledge and feelings) has enhanced my understanding of the media use of people during the time she had been living through. This type of unique information has contributed to the researchers’ knowledge in general about the media topic they’re currently looking into, which is, in this case, the relationship between media, audience and place. This is also a noticeable advantage of using collaborative ethnography to conduct research.


Real events told by real people living at the time, with all of their real experiences, are way more unique and valuable than numerical data conducted.


But this also leads to a disadvantage for collaborative ethnography when it comes to the case that stories and knowledge from the consultants are not always reliable. Memories can be mistaken and information and/or feelings will, somehow, be hardly relied on personal bias.


Nhi Nguyen



Lassiter, L.E. 2005, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, viewed 17 August 2017, <http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html>.


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