Ethnographic research emerged within the discipline of anthropology out of an interest for telling stories about what it means to be human.

Frances Densmore with Blackfoot chief, Mountain Chief, during a 1916 phonograph recording session for the Bureau of American Ethnology.

Frances Densmore with Blackfoot chief, Mountain Chief, during a 1916 phonograph recording session for the Bureau of American Ethnology.


Ethnography provides insight into the organization of social settings... it provides models for thinking about those settings and the work that goes on there. The value of ethnography, then, is in the models it provides and the ways of thinking that it supports.
— (Dourish, 2006)

Ethnographic research is an inquisitive process or method where the intent is to provide a detailed, in-depth description of everyday life and practice – what is known as “thick description” in the discipline of anthropology. Ethnographers use a variety of methods to gain an insight into people, such as interviews, surveys, video diaries, photographs, and analysis of artefacts. But ethnographic research’s most defining method of data collection is participant observation, which requires researchers to take an active part in the everyday life of the people being studied while also maintaining the stance of an observer, someone who can describes the experience with a measure of "detachment." Learning how people live; what they do; how they use things; or what they need in their everyday or professional live occurs by observing and actually doing what people do and being or experiencing (with all our senses) the places where they work, live and play.

 

Ethnographic research goes beyond reporting events and details of experience; it is also an interpretative process. The data derived from thick description is rigorously analysed, drawing connections between different patterns and behaviours observed. The ultimate goal of ethnographic research is to develop an understanding of the meaning of the behaviours, objects, environments, social interactions, beliefs, values, and communications observed. This process is guided by anthropological concepts and theories, yet the emphasis is on allowing critical categories and meanings to emerge from the ethnographic encounter and the participants’ point view.

 

At FIELDWORK we specialise in research and telling stories about what it is like to live and work in your company, stories about what your products and services may mean to your customers and how they fit within their lives, bringing you a closer, fresher look at the actual experience of your employees and customers.