Posted by: kpokrass | May 7, 2014

Ethnographic Research

Boellstorff et al. (2012) state that Ethnography is “an approach for studying everyday life as lived by groups of people…” What’s interesting about this statement is that Boellstorff et al., refers to “groups of people” as people interacting in the virtual world. Prior to this class I only understood applied Ethnographic research in the context of traditional anthropology, like Bronislaw Malinowsky, who studied indigenous people while living on the Trobriand Islands. Traditionally, Ethnographic research was conducted “in the field” studying cultures living and interacting in their traditional environments. Now, Ethnography is applied to study the virtual world, social media sites (netnography), and utilized to innovate business systems by design/process Ethnography.

The way that we conduct research in the business world is now expanded by conducting ethnographic research to gain insights into the culture or behaviors of the consumers/end-users.  Companies now have the ability to dig deeper to see the needs of their target audience and develop a product that speaks directly to them. However, as pointed out in a Bloomberg Business Week article in 2006, Ethnography conducted in the business world needs fast results. While anthropologists might have years to conduct a study, “businesses need results in weeks.”

This need for speed presents some interesting questions about ethnographic research in the business world. If it takes time to immerse oneself into a culture, can businesses take the time needed to conduct research and still remain relevant?  How can businesses utilize Ethnography in a timely manner while providing valuable data?

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