Reflexivity And Shared Social Experience Media Essay

“ Ethnography is a qualitative, realistic research method derived from the anthropological tradition. Ethnography uses participant observation, supplemented by other research methods, to derive holistic apprehensions of cultural groups ‘ beliefs and behaviors ” ( Gordon and Levin 2007:83 ) .

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Ethnography is in many ways the most basic signifier of researching societal life. It has a really long history and connects to the everyday ways in which we make sense of the universe ( Hammersly and Atkinson 2007:4 ) .

The ethnographer collects the empirical stuff where the people are. The understanding the ethnographer gets is so trough a ‘shared societal experience ‘ with them ( Hervik 1995 ) . The first quandary I will turn to is how the ethnographer develops this shared societal experience. The construct of the ‘shared societal experience ‘ is closely connected to ‘reflexivity ‘ which I will besides turn to at the same clip. Following I will turn to the job of objectiveness where I look at different point of views a research worker can take and how such point of views impact on objectiveness. I will so discourse some of the ethical issues which I have divided in three subdivisions. The first will concentrate on the relationship the ethnographer gets with the participants and the jobs of working a friend. The 2nd portion will concentrate on participant observation and how the ethnographer will hold to take a place between her and the participants and the dangers of such places.

In the 3rd portion I will so travel on to discourse the issue of cogency and how it is possible to do fieldwork valid despite the fact that the experiments cannott be repeated. Last I will speak approximately clip as an issue for carry oning fieldwork as working within a tight timeframe makes it difficult to to the full hold on all facets of a civilization.

Problems and quandaries faced by the ethnographic research worker

Reflexivity and shared societal experience

Contemporary positions of descriptive anthropology claim that the fieldwork is about relationship between people ( Okely 1992 ) and so the ethnographers, and their values, are an inseparable portion of the interaction.

The ethnographer so has to be ‘reflexive ‘ in carry oning fieldwork utilizing qualitative research methods. By this is meant that the research worker has to reflect on the nature of her engagement in the procedure and the manner that it informs the result. For illustration is it indispensable for the ethnographer to be cognizant of how her premises about the topic in survey can act upon foremost, the research inquiry and so the result ( Hastrup 1985 ) .

Reflexivity gets the research worker to believe about what she brings to the analysis. Keeping a critical path forces the ethnographer to be expressed about the determinations she makes and to reflect upon how they lead the ethnographer towards the findings and decisions ( Coffey 1999:7 ) .

Reflexivity may besides take to self-indulgence, chiefly in instances where the egoistic research worker makes herself the chief character of text ( D’Cruz, Gillingham and Melendez 2007:6 ) . The usage of journals as ‘confessionals ‘ to enter the ethnographers experiences may take ethnographers to “ build their current readings and patterns as new, improved and therefore more robust and less fallible ” ( White 2001:102 ) . In short, reflexiveness can be used as another tool to formalize the cognition claimed by the ethnographer, instead than inquiry it ( Gill, 1995 ; White, 2001 ) .

Hervik negotiations about a different sort of reflexiveness. Hervik ( 1995 ) argues that it is non an untasted universe that the ethnographer meets but a universe between us and the others. Harmonizing to Hervik ( 1995 ) , ‘shared societal experience ‘ describes a manner in which the attending is focused on the ethnographers societal place in the field, the relationship to the local sources and the will to prosecute and a manner in which the ethnographer nowadays all the histrions in the ethnographic text. An attack like that can legalize a plurality of subjectiveness in the text, but psyche searching is non the ultimate end for the ethnographer ( Hervik 1995:66 ) .

The ethnographer ‘s cultural and personal background is merely relevant if it is relevant for the fieldwork ( Okely 1992 ) . This shared societal experience, is reflexiveness ‘out at that place in the universe ‘ which is different from textual reflexiveness. Harmonizing to Hervik ( 1994 ) reflexiveness is merely possible if the shared societal experience is established and it is the experience that connects reflexiveness to anthropological practise and separates it from textual reflexiveness ( Hervik 1994 ) . This means that the contemplations that the ethnographer has about herself can be uninteresting. It is what is shared and what goes beyond the person that is interesting and this can be difficult for the ethnographer to accomplish.

Bachnic ( 1994 ) says that the experience of the ethnographer is the get downing point in a long procedure and the reflexiveness starts before the duologue has even begun ( Bachnic 1994 ) . She illustrates that by taking illustrations from her ain field work in Japan. Her linguistic communication accomplishments were limited and because of that she was really watchful to the reactions of the host household. At the same clip the host household studied all her facial looks and interpreted her feelings and ideas before she could show them verbally herself.

At a clip during the field work the correlativity between the source and the ethnographer will be intensified and a common land will be established ( Hervik 1995 ) . The ethnographer will be familiar with the local civilization, which gives a frame for interaction.

The entree to the local reflexiveness ( if that is at all possible ) is greatest at this point and the shared societal experience has reduced the unequal relationship between the classs ‘observer ‘ and ‘the other ‘ . This procedure has been called ‘relativism ‘ ( Ardener 1989 ) . But the research worker ‘s cognition and understanding for different classs demonstrates that relativism is non a signifier of anti-objectivity but on the other manus is the lone chance for objectiveness ( Ardener 1989:212-3 ) .


The postmodern position is that ethnographic objectiveness is about understanding and an understanding involves a specific coherency between both the research worker and the local ‘s experience ( Hastrup 1993 ) .

The jobs of ethnographic objectiveness have led some scientists to reason that indifferent research is non possible and that all descriptive anthropology is subjective. The postmodern protagonists take this place further and argue that descriptive anthropology is fiction and will hold to be judged on the textual signifier every bit good as scientific rules ( Spiro 1996 ) .

The anthropologist John Van Maanen ( 1988 ) , describes descriptive anthropology as ‘hauntingly personal ‘ and makes no secret of the descriptive anthropology is formed by the ethnographer, and by the picks the research worker makes – both by the field place and by the manner she produces the text afterwards ( Maanen 1988: foreword ) .

If Maanen is right, that means that the ethnographer has the power – it is merely what she sees and her cognition and sentiments that lay the land for reading.

In the book Writing Culture the writers Clifford and Marcus ( 1986 ) attempt to reply this subjective/objective job. They solve the quandary by stating ‘Ethnographic truths are therefore inherently partial ‘ ( Clifford and Marcus 1986:7 ) .

My ain position is that, although absolute objectiveness may non be accomplishable, it can be approximated. The ethnographer must maintain scientific criterions and processs to accomplish as impersonal a point of view on the information as possible. It may non be possible to objectively show the world, but the ethnographic method is an effort to acquire every bit near as possible.

The ethnographer must besides acknowledge and clearly analyze the beginnings of prejudice when composing out the research consequences. She will ever be biased because it is non possible to liberate oneself from being subjective and from theoretical premises ( Hastrup 1993 ) . The pre-understanding is in this manner able to act upon the consequences, but by recognizing that the ethnographer is subjective and is reflecting about this it is possible to acquire closer to objectiveness.


Relationships, Knowledge and Exploitation

It is non possible to divide the emotional and the mental battle from the dealingss obtained in the field – and harmonizing to Hervik would it be a bad thought to seek to divide the two ( Hervik 1995 ) . In add-on, friendly relationships are frequently a requirement to acquire information about people. But there is ever a quandary in this state of affairs to be cognizant of.

Whytes ‘ ( 1992 ) experiences from his fieldwork Street Corner Society points, among other things, towards the fact that the ethnographer frequently gets entree to personal, sensitive cognition because he study the people or a state of affairs up near. This is straight linked with the shared societal experience because it is when the ethnographer gets to cognize the people under survey and they together reach a common land of understanding that the ethnographer has easier entree to the studied universe. When the research is focused upon people in pervert, exposed or utmost state of affairss this requires more attending. It is possible for the research worker to keep, what Henslin ( 1972 ) calls, guilty cognition. This typically means to obtain cognition of or go witness to condemnable activities which puts the ethnographer in a quandary as to whether to describe it. The ethnographer can besides obtain, what Henslin ( 1972 ) calls, adumbrate cognition. This means knowledge about confidant inside informations of a individuals ‘ life, this could be knowledge about gender, dependence or mental jobs. So, merely knowledge that the ethnographer posses if he has close friendly relationships or entree to private records.

Another cardinal quandary is mentioning to the relationship between science/research and friendly relationship. This can be seen in state of affairss where the ethnographer makes friends with her sources and as the fieldwork advancement the closer they get. This is non an existent job. The job arises, for the ethnographer, in the minute she has to work these friendly relationships for scientific intents ( Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2001 ) .

Mathiesen ( 1965 ) writes about his stay in a Norse prison and how hard it was for him when the inmates started to see him as a friend. It became harder for him to see them as objects for his research. He describes it as being caught between the trueness of friendly relationship and the function as research worker. This is an ethical job or quandary in fieldwork and it does non count whether the ethnographer works overt or covert. The ethnographer develops shared societal experiences with the field histrions with the hope of acquiring entree to cardinal information, but every bit convenient as these ‘doors ‘ can be to obtain cognition they can every bit impede the ethnographers development of this cognition.

Daniels ( 1983 ) mentions how unpleasant it is to be pull stringsing in the creative activity of friendly relationships: “ one tries to cut down this uncomfortableness by ritual looks of friendly relationship that give a sense of confidence that one is non merely a good research worker, but a good individual. Therefore, one continues to react to friendly overtures by respondents for a clip after the flicker of involvement has disappeared ” ( Daniels 1983:211 ) . Some relationships are more existent than others and the danger of scientific unity arises and a danger of one ‘s inter-human dealingss when the friendly relationship has, as in the above mentioned instance, ‘pseudo-friendship ‘ character.

If the ethnographer experiences something that she feels she should hold prevented or should describe but decides non to step in she will so neglect to populate by the moralss in her ain society. Can the ethnographer choose non to step in by lodging to the ground of why she is at that place – looking for truth, and thereby warrant non describing it.

It is a difficult state of affairs and the ethnographer will in any of the two state of affairss risk a great trade. If she reports she will perchance hold to stop her field work and see all her work disappear. On the other manus, if she chooses to be ‘one of them ‘ and so do n’t describe it she can stop up repenting an eventual harmful result for the remainder of her life. The lone manner to travel about it, as I see it, is to populate after one ‘s ain moral and ethical criterions, which should besides hold cosmopolitan cogency. If the ethnographer experiences something during the fieldwork that is illegal or in other ways can harm people it would be the right thing to describe it – or at least work harmonizing to what is presubscribed by the ethic commissions.

Participant Observation: Closeness and Distance

Participant observation is now about synonymous with fieldwork and descriptive anthropology. Schwartz and Schwartz ( 1955 ) specify it as being a procedure where the perceivers ‘ societal presence is maintained with the intent to carry on a scientific probe.

The perceiver is in a face to confront state of affairs with the ascertained and is roll uping informations from their natural scene. Therefore, the ethnographer is portion of the context being observed. This function can be formal or informal, open or convert ( Schwartz and Schwartz 1955:344 ) .

Robert Gold ( 1958 ) works with a continuum of field functions that stretches from the ‘complete participant ‘ , ‘participant-as-observer ‘ , ‘observer-as-participant ‘ and to ‘complete observer ‘ . Golds ‘ continuum can be described as the complete participant hides her true individuality for the sources to understate the influence on societal procedures that she wish to analyze while the complete perceiver abstain from societal interaction. Observation does non needfully intend that the sources are informed about the research workers ‘ individuality and motivations ( Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2001:41 ) . A point from Golds ‘ categorization of field functions is that the different functions – and with that, different classs of engagement individually involves different jobs. The ethnographer must take how close to acquire.

The function of ‘complete participant ‘ can be unsafe but it is besides unsafe to hold excessively much distance, to be excessively far from the participants – that is to state, to be excessively much of an perceiver. It is unsafe because the ethnographer in the distanced research worker place hazards misconstruing her sources – because she does n’t cognize plenty about them and does non hold the shared societal experience. Therefore, the ethnographer will most likely give the incorrect image of the source ‘s world and motivations ( Jacobsen and Kristiansen 2001:42 ) .

On one side of the quandary it is about the un-understandable or unacceptable phenomenon that becomes apprehensible the more shared societal experience the ethnographer has with the participants. On the other side is the ethnocentrism in which societal phenomenon are being evaluated merely from the research workers ain cultural criterions.

The ethnographer has to see how he influences the sources and how that will impact the result of the fieldwork. If the ethnographer works overtly, this so means that the ethnographer reveals from the beginning who she is and what her docket is, the hazard of altering the participants natural behavior is present but the advantages ‘ are that it so is possible for the ethnographer to take notes and record whenever she finds it necessary. If the ethnographer is working covert the opportunities of ‘going native ‘ are more likely since her opportunities for a profound shared societal experience is greater, and she so will hold problem distancing herself from the topic in survey ( Fielding 2008:271 ) .

The ethnographer will therefore, in my position, have to take a function someplace between the ‘complete perceiver ‘ and the ‘complete participant ‘ to acquire the best consequence from her fieldwork. A place in ‘the center ‘ will besides add to the nonsubjective side as the ethnographer has shared societal experience but besides maintain a distance from the participants and the fieldwork.

Validity, Field Location and Time

I have already talked about objectiveness and how the ethnographer must keep scientific criterions and processs to accomplish as impartial a position as possible. But what can do farther jobs for the ethnographer is the presence of an premise and trueness to a certain theoretical way that may take the research worker to selectively roll up information that agrees with the ethnographers ‘ prepossessions and to disregard any contra dictionary facts. The research worker may be making interviews that in themselves consist of taking inquiries that may act upon the quality of the source ‘s reply.

Furthermore, Ethnographers usually work with a little figure of sources and it can hence be difficult to assure that the information the ethnographer collects is wholly representative of all the experiences possible or even touch the dominant cultural positions.

The ethnographer will typically generalize about the consequences, which can be seen as generalizing from a microcosmic position ( Hastrup 1995 ) . This attack neglects any possible traits, forms and fluctuations that are frequently presented in each civilization. The ethnographer merely focuses on a individual location/village/people and that besides limits the analogues that can afterwards be drawn to wider regional or national degrees.

The ethnographic procedure may ensue in a description and a publication of the fieldwork that is unambiguously the merchandise of a peculiar ethnographer. Consequently, two different research workers may bring forth wholly conflicting histories of the same civilization. This state of affairs has happened on several occasions, most notably in the analysis of adolescent behavior on the island of Samoa. The well-known anthropologist, Margaret Mead, published an anthropological classic on this topic ( Mead 1928 ) . Another anthropologist, Derek Freeman ( 1983 ) , carried out a survey of the same civilization that started from the opposite hypothesis. His informations steadfastly supported his place that Samoan adolescence was merely as restrictive and disruptive as the American experience and that both reflected cosmopolitan biological inclinations.

Harmonizing to Sanjek and Sandak ( 1990 ) , societal scientific discipline is a validity-science instead than a scientific discipline that relies on dependability. No experiments conducted by the research worker can be done once more in the exact same manner and with the exact same result and thereby show dependability, but it is of import for the ethnographer to be unfastened about how he got to the consequences ( Sanjek and Sandak1990 ) . If the method and the research procedure are easy seen through, it is possible to formalize the consequence.

Geertz argues that societal scientific discipline is an interpretative scientific discipline. In the book The Interpretation of Cultures it is captured what he thinks it is: ‘Cultural analysis is [ aˆ¦ ] thinking at significances, measuring the conjectures, and pulling explanatory decisions from the better conjectures ‘ ( Geertz 1973:20 ) . Of class it is non plenty to think what the universe looks like. These conjectures have to be scientificly founded.

Further the ethnographers ‘ observation and fieldwork are frequently limited to a short clip period. This limits the ethnographers ‘ penetration into cultural procedures that may affect longer rhythms. In add-on, this besides makes it difficult for the ethnographer to generalize.


Due to the limited range of this essay I have chosen to measure what I regard as the typical jobs and quandary which face ethnographic research workers. Reflexivity is a manner for the ethnographer to reflect through the whole procedure but that can sometimes take to self indulgence and can alternatively do the ethnographer into the chief character of the fieldwork.

I agree with Herviks position on reflexiveness as I think the ethnographers ‘ background should be mentioned merely if it is purely relevant to the fieldwork. I believe more accent should be placed on the building of a shared societal experience in this manner it is possible to larn more about the people under survey and thereby acquire a greater penetration and widen the possibility for objectiveness. It is of import to reflect on the ways in which the fieldwork is conducted, because if a research worker can non be unbiased as it is the lone manner through which we can achieve some sort of objectiveness – and make knowledge- which must be the purpose for ethnographic fieldwork.

The research worker will, if she chooses a place that is someplace in the center or more towards the ‘complete participant ‘ , get close to her sources but in making so the ethnographer will most probably have to work that friendly relationship to some grade.

Overt observation is a solution but in my position it is most of import to maintain the sources safe by namelessness. It is impossible to avoid all of these ethical jobs but if the ethnographer follows the recommendations of the relevant moralss commission there is a opportunity to understate the ‘damage ‘ in the field and in the undermentioned analysis and publication of the informations.

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