Ethnography can be described as; ‘virtually any qualitative research project where the intent is to provide a detailed, in-depth description of everyday life and practice.’ (Hoey. B 2000-2017). But being a media student, I refer to it as “people watching” we all love doing that right? Watching other people’s behaviours, seeing how they react to certain things within their surroundings has always seemed interesting to me and well sometimes a habit (not a creep, just curious I promise).
In the digital age today, the term ethnography has become a somewhat “challenge” for those who choose to study the behaviours of say a mainstream concept “A day in the life of a teenager” because we can now just go online to scroll through profiles and newsfeeds to find out what they are doing.
For example are these people waiting for a bus or interacting online socially? We’ve all been here with the shuffling, the oblivion to those around us as we stare down at our screens and scroll frantically to catch up on the world. I guess the point I’m trying to make is Are we really interacting? Are we becoming less involved in our surroundings? And this brings me to my overall ethnographic views of observing the ways people interact with each other in today’s digital world.
I work in a restaurant so that means I’m always scanning the behaviours of customers, how they react to their meals, if they need any assistance or if they just want to be petty (I love hospitality). It allows me to take note of the ways in which we have changed as a generation. It’s the concept of using the digital world to avoid human interaction in a way I guess. I see couples coming in for “date night” and both sitting there on their phones ignoring the intimacy of being together. I see mothers shoving devices in children’s faces to keep them distracted while they gossip with the rest of the mothers. We have examples of millennials and the next generation; I can start to form an idea of what they will be like, ignorant in my opinion. People have forgotten about social interaction because they’re too focused on the digital world and what’s happening elsewhere.
Looking deeper into ethnography and its various aspects of the study, I’ve come to realise that studying people’s behaviours in both real life and digital has made me become aware of my own actions. I can’t be the only one who still doesn’t use my phone at the dinner table because that’s “family time” right?
Last week’s topic was the memories our parents had about television. Well, I found out dad’s biggest memory was him wanting to further his career in music because of The Beatles. But when I asked him what it was like without the digital world back then, he said: “…the world was simpler Lach.” And he’s right, dad wasn’t brought up with iPads, he was brought up with phone boxes and well shocker, writing letters to someone! The digital age comparison of then and now, allows ethnographers like myself to observe the ways we have evolved based on “digital interaction” and it’s the ability to change the way we behave in our surroundings.
To conclude this little rant about being nosy about what everyone is doing, I just want to remind everyone to look up occasionally and take it in, especially on date night and they’re a 10/10 😉
Stay salty, Lachy.
- Brian A. Hoey, 2000-2017, ‘Definition of Ethnography’, weblog, 18th August 2017. http://brianhoey.com/research/ethnography/