What is an ethnographic interview?

Recently a renewed discussion with an important colleague of mine resurfaced the common use of the phrase ‘ethnographic interview.’ We had previously discussed our concern that any old folk would be running around and using the powerful adjective of ‘ethnographic’ without putting any deep ethno power behind the phrase. This weekend I sat down on the dock with Charlie, my dog, and wrote out my thoughts in long hand, hence you’ll have a chance to enjoy the loopy cursive, occasional misspelling, and unedited sentence structures. It is hopefully worth a read, I promise you a twist is in store for those lucky readers who stick it out!

p.s. if it is truly awful to load the scans or difficult to read let me know and I’ll put it on the to-do list to type it up soon 😉

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I wonder if I can be useful to you

I’ve been interviewing people throughout the Blogosphere this week. It has been an amazing experience on many levels. It is my first time conducting ethnographic research over the internet and on Monday I conducted my first ever interview over skype. It went swimmingly! I think I just got lucky with a great participant.

Virtual ethnography is a wonderful way to stay in one place physically and yet visit with people all over the globe. It provides us the chance to really expand our exploration and hear some spectacular stories.

I have noticed that many participants do exactly what I do, when researchers come asking for you to be in their study. Whenever I get asked to participate I always say yes, but I always doubt that I will be useful for the research. Its not a self deprecating moment its just kind of a way of creating a disclaimer for whatever information I give them. I don’t want to have wasted anyone else’s time.

Today I had a little eureka moment. In ethnographic work everyone’s opinion counts. It is hyper democratic. You can learn as much from the haters as the lovers. The extreme users and the I’ve-never-touched-it before-in-my-life folks are all equally as important. Ethnographers are story collectors. We are constantly searching for the story that pulls it all together and plugs into the framework. Coincidentally the stories build the framework making this a cyclical and iterative process.

Everyone’s story counts. End of discussion.