In The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, Lassiter says that “in the communities in which we work, study, or practice, we cannot possibly carry out our unique craft without engaging others in the context of their real, everyday lives” (2005, p.15). To me, this statement means that we as researchers would not be able to do the work we do without somehow involving those around us. Or to put it simply, we rely on our audience for the work we produce.
This is essentially the idea behind collaborative ethnography – researchers working together with their audience to produce something that both parties are happy with. Content produced through “constant mutual engagement at every step of the process”, and not a “model of exchange where one thing granted yields an appropriate reciprocal response” (Hinson 1999). Through mutual involvement, a better understanding is gained.
Cavanaugh states that collaborative ethnography should be accessible outside of academia to a greater audience and “specifically to those who participated in the research, who should have access to read, edit and fully understand the final product” (2013, p.4). This is a statement that I fully believe in, as understanding the final product is just as important for the participants as being involved in the research itself.
Collaborative ethnography certainly has plenty of opportunity to be used when researching in relation to media spaces and media audiences. For example, the simple task of sharing what we learned about childhood memories of television showed that the majority of people asked their grandparents. With these memories came stories of the family sitting together to watch certain shows, at certain times, in certain places. This immediately provides us with a common theme of family relating to television. This would be an excellent opportunity to use collaborative ethnography to gather memories and anecdotes together to create a broader picture of family television watching habits or rituals.
However, collaborative ethnography does have its limitations, as do all methods of research. One key limitation would be that by involving participants, “the ethnographer accepts the risk of losing control over the project, if it is not performed properly” (Cavanaugh 2013). There is also the factor of time constraints and availability of those wishing to be involved. Collaborative ethnography limitations however, do tend to be specific to individual circumstances, as it can be used varyingly with different projects.
Overall, I do believe that collaborative ethnography generates more strengths than weaknesses and should be recognised as a valuable tool for researchers, and I am sure that I will use this method later in my research career.
Cavanaugh, H. 2013, ‘The case for collaborative ethnography’, report, Humboldt State University, California, accessed 11 August 2017, <https://www.slideshare.net/hcc19/the-case-for-collaborative-ethnography>
Hinson, G. D. 1999, “‘You’ve got to include an invitation’: engaged reciprocity and negotiated purpose in collaborative ethnography”, paper presented at the 98th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, 17-21 Chicago, Illinois.
Lassiter, L. E. 2005, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL., accessed 11 August 2017, < http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html>