August 24th, 2011
Wanted to tell my blog readers who are professionals in the field of qualitative research…that I’m speaking at the QRCA Southeast meeting on September 16, 2011, in Duluth, GA, in case you want to come by and participate. If you’ve just received the evite as a member of the Southeast Chapter, I look forward to this observational/ethnographic workshop experience a lot.
What I like –and think other researchers will appreciate about the September 16 experience–is its interactivity–the chance for participants to try out a couple of types of observational processes on your own, under my supervision, and in the company of other skilled researchers who may or may not know much about authentic observation. This will help you immeasurably in ethnography. Of course, we’ll examine theory and best practices, tips and techniques, the 10 principles of authentic ethnography, and weave it together with case histories from U.S., Canada, and international research. But the observational skills can be considered a chance to move more deeply into the very essence–the tap root–of the authentic ethnographic process.
What I’ve learned about observation and true ethnography–now and since my graduate work at Columbia University in cultural anthropology…there’s no end to learning about how to observe. Any chance inside or outside of anthropological research projects should be used as an opportunity to practice observing, watching, listening, and paying attention to real-world activities of other people happening in front of you without changing their behavior in any way, yet astutely seeing and being present with it. Like performing on piano, doing quantum physics, creating a painting, or learning Mandarin Chinese, observational abilities can be just as complex. Observation evikves through multiple levels from beginning into intermediate into expert.
Again, there’s no end of learning about observation, and it’s real easy to get rusty if one hasn’t done it in a while (like a few days or weeks). What I find is that ethnographic observation requires a slow, relaxed, deliberate process that continues to intensify as the hours of observation pass….being present within a heightened state of awareness as one experiences through participant observation the world of other people within the framework of one’s own interpretive self