Ethno – What?


One of my favourite documentary creators is Louis Theroux. He is a man that in my eyes, doesn’t just interview a person and then leave happy with what information he has gotten out of them. No, he invests time, energy, emotion and thought into every show. He doesn’t just show the one side he might want to release but allows all sides of a story to be accessed and shown. This week we discussed ethnography. Ethnography is the scientific and systematic exploratory study of people and culture. Ethnography can be done in a reciprocal method and a collaborative method between researchers and subjects (Lassiter, 2005). I found that during tutorials this week talking about ethnography, I came to think of Louis Theroux and the way he investigates and studies people and their cultures (Sancto, 2015). He doesn’t just ask the questions he prepared earlier, but he allows the people he interviews to lead the interview, asking them what he should be asking.  I have come to my own conclusion that Theroux utilises both ethnography methods and is such, an ethnographer.

In last weeks task we were to interview an older person than ourselves about their tv habits and memories. What I have been noticing reading other people’s blogs in this subject, is that there are challenges in collaborative media ethnography. Using memories as data, for one. Memories can be skewed, wrong, or lied about. The subjective nature of narrative research or collaborative ethnography for qualitative data might mean it can be not as reliable as say, the quantitative data that the data group Nielson (Nielson, 2016) curates and analyses. But on the other hand, qualitative data received from methods such as collaborative media ethnography give the personal and human insight that numbers may not. This human part is what other ethnographers such as  use as their justification for collaborative ethnography.

 “…Insisted on the clear preservation of the informant’s perspective in the actual version of what constituted cultural knowledge.” – James P. Spradley, ethnographer (Lassiter, 2005)

Even though our task was simple – have a conversation with someone older than you about their memories of television spaces in their childhood, the task brought up a lot of data that can be used to create an image of the times way back when.


Lassiter, L. (2005). The Chicago guide to collaborative ethnography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Sancto, R. (2015). Louis Theroux’s Ten Most Revealing Documentaries. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016]. (2016). What People Watch, Listen To and Buy | Nielsen. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug. 2016].


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