When the lead researcher assumes, in advance, that some challenges are bound to happen no matter how careful the planning and well-orchestrated the process, her relaxed attitude reassures and leads to more realistic expectations. It stimulates the problem solving and extended imagination of a client team whose members are then free to concentrate on looking more deeply at what underlies the appearance of a challenging observational element. We may see it as a piece of a research jigsaw puzzle that will eventually reveal intriguing findings.​

I like to address the possibility of challenges in the field during ethnographic training -- and retraining -- the debriefing of the team. Anticipating the unexpected and part that's difficult to put comfortably into findings and objectives buckets focuses the team, brings us deeper, and frequently leads to newer insights than we expected. We can savor that a new twist is part of the study journey. We go up, down, round, and...through.​

I like to address the possibility of challenges in the field during ethnographic training -- and retraining -- the debriefing of the team. Anticipating the unexpected and part that's difficult to put comfortably into findings and objectives buckets focuses the team, brings us deeper, and frequently leads to newer insights than we expected. We can savor that a new twist is part of the study journey. We go up, down, round, and...through.​

But, ethnographic video footage takes a while to get through. If we video three hours of footage in one ethnography, and we do 16 ethnographies, that's 48 hours to go through, without much stopping, in order to find key clips that seem to illustrate both what we thought is happening and now what else is being revealed during this examination. In both cases, new findings will also emerge.

 

The stronger the awareness, the thicker the results and the greater the ensuing complexity.

When ethnography is at the complex midway point​

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During an ethnographic research project, amazing insights, subtle hints, obvious ideas, as well as paradox and difficulties will arise. Some observations are so concrete that we could write the final report right now. Still -- the midpoint stands between old assumptions and breakthrough findings, and despite some clarity, we are still at the transition point. Or, several transition points may be happening at the same time even if we have a single objective.

 

The more objectives, the more transition points since not all findings evolve and solidify at the same time in research.

An example from a recent trip to Iceland: One may come upon, unexpectedly, a flowering medicinal herb...delicate, perfect, and thriving in the lava fields. Almost unnoticeably blending into inhospitable terrain, its pink substance holds a hidden potential to soothe, alleviate, cure, and enhance. This is similar to the discovery of more subtle findings from authentic ethnography whose interest and usefulness to a project initiative become apparent only upon examination of hundreds of photographs and videos that were taken of what seemed to be totally other actions.​

 

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