Ethnography in applied communication research

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Book Chapter

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"Nothing is stranger than this business of humans observing other humans in order to write about them," claimed anthropologist Behar (1986, p. 5) in her discussion of ethnography. Anyone who has conducted ethnography (especially participant observation) can attest to how strage it feels, particularly at first, to set oneself apart as an observer and turn a discerning eye to the taken-for-granted processes of a particular social setting. Strange though the endeavor may seem at times, ethnography has proven enormously useful to applied communication researchers for exploring, participating in, and documenting the rich details of daily life as they unfold (Gans, 1999). ****Ethnography, broadly defined, "refers to a social scientific description of a people and the cultural basis of their peoplehood" (Vidich & Lyman, 2000, p.40). Berg (2001) added that "ethnography is primarily a process that attempts to describe and interpret social expressions between people and groups" (p. 134). The validity of ethnography is grounded in the claim that a researcher has been there - wherever "there" might be (Lindlof & Taylor, 2002). Being there and writing about one sees, hears, feels, smells, and tastes there constitute the essence of conducting ethnography. Applied communication ethnographers seek to be there in various sites for the purpose of learning about and assisting in the development, change, or improvement of that site or other related sites. Thus, this chpater explores how and for what purposes applied communicatino researchers do ethnography - as participant observers in the field, as data producers and analysts, as writers.

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The handbook of applied communication research


L. R. Frey
K. Cissna

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