Research seminar: Doing Media Ethnography
Dr John Postill
Doing Media Ethnography
Research seminar to the Doctoral Programme
IN3, Open University of Catalonia
Media-TIC building, nr Glories
Wednesday, 11 May 2011
In this seminar I draw from my previous research in Malaysia and ongoing research in Barcelona to explore the ethnographic study of media. I pay particular attention to the importance of carefully choosing the ethnographic research methods (e.g. participant observation, time diaries, semi-structured interviews, biographies of things) that will best suit a given research project. This is seldom easy, as the ethnographic research process is typically exploratory, open-ended and subject to sudden rethinks. Moreover, the rapid pace of technological change and growing diversification of the mediascape make it increasingly hard – if not impossible – to delimit one’s object of study around one or two discrete media. Two golden rules of ethnographic research are: “If it matters to my research participants, then it matters to me” and “Follow the locals, but remember that sometimes they may lose their way, too”. The session will start with a presentation of the key issues and this will be followed by a discussion and class exercise that connects with doctoral students’ own interests and experience. As a thought experiment, students are asked to come to the session having prepared a two-minute presentation of a media research project they would develop if this were their research area.