“We keep what we have, by giving it away.” – Eric Lassiter – humanity
So now that we have a general understanding of ethnographic research, why is it so important? What’s the big deal? Personally, I believe many of the world’s problems stem from a lack of genuine understanding or misinterpretation of a situation. Everyone’s culture, beliefs, outlook, perspecitves, values and way of understanding life are different, so it only makes sense when we try to fix a problem, that we consult directly with the people it affects.
An example of this misunderstanding and lack of effective communication is the Live Aid and Make Poverty History campaigns led by Bono and Bob Geldof. The whole initiative started when Bob Geldof saw confronting images on TV of malnourished children living in poverty on the brink of death in Africa. So their solution was to raise money. Awesome… Or is it?
Their campaigning created awareness in the public, who then urged politicians to jump on board, to change legislation, and donate more foreign aid, and that money would be given directly to Ethiopia….’s President, Meles Zenawi’s pocket, who stole the election and who’s governmet is corrupt. Whilst this issue is a huge one and I’m not offering a single solution to poverty itself, Bono and Bob probably could’ve made a lot more of a significant impact if they discussed issues of poverty, development, agriculture and livlihood with Ethiopian people.
Collaborative research is research based on a ‘greater and deeper relationship between the researcher and the people being researched’ (Clerke & Hopwood, 2014) and implies ‘constant mutual engagement at every step of the process.’ (Lassiter, 2005). If the work you’re researching is hoping to make changes to a community, it should completely benefit the community and not be influenced by corporation power. Instead of contantly asking what you can gain from this research, you should be asking what the community wants and needs to change. This may direct your research in a different yet more rewarding and impactful way.
So how can we relate all of this back to TV and the media space? Well thinking of my Grandparents and listening to them talk about when they first received a TV. There’s so many side stories and aspects that we could’ve discussed. What were the rules in front of the TV? Who got to sit on the lounge and who sat on the floor? Where did the children sit? Did they still play and talk whilst the TV was on? How much did it cost? Did you have to sacrifice other things to have a TV? Did you still listen to the radio? So many questions that arise from a simple conversation, and this is probably the biggest deterent from participating in collaborative ethnographic research, it takes a lot of time.
However, if we are willing to sacrifice our time, patience and understanding, like the quote above says ‘we keep what we have, by giving it away,’ what is it? I think it’s our compassion, empathy and understanding, and it’s important to hold onto it in order to make the world a better place and learn more about people from an insider’s perspective.
Clerke. T & Hopwood. N 2014, Doing Ethnography in Teams, Springer, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-05618-0_2
Lassiter. E 2005, The Chicago guide to collaborative ethnography, University of Chicago Press
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