Introduction: Qualitative research is about asking questions and gathering information through words, to then later analyze. One way of doing this is through ethnography. But before any research can be done, there must be a research question. In this case, “Do the Olympics cause their audience to act differently than when they are watching any other popular TV show? ” This question was chosen to clearly outline the process of ethnography, and how it is useful in finding out the information needed to answer this research question. Methodology:
An ethnography is “A Research approach to understanding the culture of a group (patterns of behaviour/attitudes, how they create meaning), by immersing oneself in the activities of the specific group over a period of time and then writing up a descriptive summary. ” (Savage 3). An ethnographic approach includes being engaged in and listening to conversations, taking regular notes and collecting “artifacts” of the group being studied (Savage 7). All of these things later help in writing up a summary of findings that where gathered from the ethnography.
There are two main types of ethnography, first there is an overt ethnography where the participants are told they are being observed. This type of ethnography is most commonly used and is less risky because the participants are aware of the study that is taking place. The other type is covert. This is where the researcher is unknown by the participants (Savage 10). The ethnography done about whether the Olympics change the way an audience acts is a covert ethnography. The subjects were unaware of the researcher and the fact that they were being studied and just watched TV as they normally would.
Although this study was in a closed setting, there is always a chance of a risk when doing a covert study, because one of the participants may not want to be studied (Savage 9-10). Another important aspect of doing an ethnography is gaining access. Gaining access all depends on whether it is a closed setting or an open setting. Open settings are public settings are are fairly easy to gain access to. They include places like a street corner, or a movie theatre lobby, or city council meetings (Savage 9). Closed settings are non-public settings that are harder to gain access to because they usually require a contact, or permission to get into.
Closed settings include families, firms, doctors offices and political parties (Savage 9). These are places that access is only granted to people who have permission. Although, in most cases, a lot of groups that are in a closed setting, have both open and closed settings, so if permission was not granted, then there would still be an opportunity for an ethnography when the group is in an open setting. The ethnography that was done took place in a closed setting and access was granted due to it being at the researchers house.
This made it easy to gain access without having to worry about any limits that can sometimes come with closed settings. Summary of Findings For this topic, one would find that using ethnography would be the best way to go about making a research project about the Olympics causing an audience to act differently then when they watch other popular TV shows. This is because the study was about to view two different settings, one of subjects watching a popular TV show (American Idol), and one of subjects watching the Olympic Games.
This allowed for a very good comparison between the two, and made answering the research question fairly easy. While doing the ethnography in both settings, being a “fly on the wall” allowed the researcher to observe how the subjects acted in both situations without being noticed. The setting also helped in disguising the researcher, because the subjects were just told it was homework, or they were used to the researcher being on the computer anyways. If this study were to be conducted as an in-depth interview, the results would be quite different.
The interviewee may not know how they react when they’re watching television, or may not notice that they act differently and vise versa, which would then make it difficult to get the desired information. This would put the study at a halt because no relevant information would have been gathered. Conducting an ethnography is the only real way to go about answering this research question. There is a certain level of control that comes with doing an ethnography for this question because the researcher is unknown, this also ensures that the subjects are acting the way the normally would and not acting the way the think they should act.
Which is sometimes the case when people are told they are being studied. Also, (in this case) the subjects are somewhat being forced to watch the desired television show. This ensures that the subjects are being exposed to the same show and can allow for more specific research. Ethnography is also useful because it allows for change. If the ethnography were to go on, there would most likely be more television shows to compare the Olympics to, but in this case, the research question could be narrowed down to “Do the Olympics cause their audience to act differently than when they are watching American Idol?
“. If the study were to continue, because it is an ethnography with multiple subjects for each show, there is room for change, and the data that was already collected would still be useful. Whereas if an in-depth interview was to done, and data was collected there is no guarantee that each subject watches the same television shows to be able to compare among the different subject that were interviewed. Key Learnings
After choosing to use an ethnography to answer this research question, some things became quite clear. First, when conducting a covert ethnography, sometimes it is not so easy to remain unknown to every subject, and it is difficult to judge what they are thinking or what they will do if they were to find out. This raised the question of what should the researcher do if they are in a closed setting that they cannot leave and a subject did not want to be studied and was very angry?
In most closed setting situations, the chances are that it will not be a covert ethnography, but after this covert closed setting ethnography, it was made clear that the position of research should not be made known for the safety of the researcher. This leads to another question about ethics and who should be harmed in that case. If the researcher is in danger of being harmed if they were to tell the subject that they were being studied, and if the researcher did not tell the subject, then it is considered unethical because the subject is being lied to.
Does this issue then become an issue of choosing the greater good? In which case, who decides what the greater good is? Second, when doing an ethnography there is not always something useful to take note of. This causes ethnography to be very time consuming because the research must wait until they have all the information needed which may take a very long time if nothing is happening. This causes a problem because there is no guarantee that anything will happen at all that would help the researcher answer their research question.
Conclusion: In discussing using ethnography to answer the question of “Do the Olympics cause their audience to act differently than when they are watching any other popular TV show? ” and what was learned, it is safe to conclude that ethnography is the best way to approach a question like this. This is largely due to the method being more successful at gathering information than it’s alternative, and because there are a number of way that is can be performed to ensure that the researcher is able to get the information needed.