Module 2: Digital visual and sensory ethnography approaches- working alone and with other researchers

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In this module we address techniques for design ethnographic research when working alone or in teams with other researchers. Students will learn about solo approaches to the field site, and how reflecting on their own experiences can help reach research insights. They will also learn about working with colleagues in team projects and research design that accounts for the complex realities of researchers’ own lives.

While the module considers selected topics in-depth, there are themes that draw them together, and that inform all ethnographic research. The first is the centrality of ethics and responsibility. Even if the research project does not directly engage research participants, fieldwork based on auto-ethnography or participant observation must still do so in a way that emerging continually throughout the project, as discussed in Module 1.

Reflexivity is also crucial, or identifying and accounting for our own position in the field as researchers, what we bring to our research orientations and the effects we might have on the contexts in which we work. Relatedly, the role of embodiment, both in sensory perception and as a location of cultural and social factors that shape our position in and attitudes toward research. It follows that the use of researchers’ own thoughts, feelings and sensory experiences provides a powerful route to understand others’ experiences. Finally, the Module will prompt participants to consider how research materials made alone or with other researchers contributes to the scholarly analytical process, rather than stopping at mere description.

The videos offer practical insights into examples of these topics, which the reading list expands on:

  • Stacy Holman-Jones and Shanti Sumartojo discuss the principles of auto-ethnography and how they have used it in their own research.
  • Shanti and Melisa Duque consider their own processes of sensorial and bodily ‘attunement’ during an ethnographic project they worked on as part of a larger team.
  • Shanti covers the basics of using body-mounted cameras, discussing how she and others have used them alone and with research participants, and what kinds of research insights they afford.

Learning outcomes

  • What is meant by reflexivity and how to ensure it is considered carefully in the research process, including attuning to sensory bodily experience.
  • How to treat your own experiences as valid research materials, and how they can help you initiate discussion or reach insight about the experiences of research participants.
  • How researcher-directed digital visual technologies can help reach understandings about field sites and their designed aspects.


Attuning to Place

Using body-mounted cameras

Reading list