In this week’s post I will be reflecting on what I’ve learnt from reading other people’s blogs on television memory research and will proceed to discuss the strengths and weaknesses associated with this approach to media audience research — relating directly to collaborative media ethnography.
When comparing my own account — looking at my mother’s experience of television in the 1960’s — to other students’ examinations, it is interesting to note the differences. With the overarching theme that media devices and practices intersect with our experience of being in space and place at a specific point in time, many of the accounts referred back to the fact that programs aired tend to be forgotten whereas events seen tend to be remembered. I too speak of my mother’s recollection of the watching NASA land on the moon and hearing the news of the death of Elvis Presley.
However, while my mother preferred to watch television alone, other narratives spoke of the bonding element the television played within the family. The television was not a central aspect of my mother’s household and she was under no circumstances allowed to eat in front of it yet other families spent their evenings eating dinner on trays made specifically for just that. There are differing brands of televisions (colour vs. black and white), different rules such as when and what you were allowed to watch, changing habits around it’s use and alternating responses to the progressions and developments in technology over the years. Even with all that and the fact that individuals watched television for a number of different reasons, it’s use allowed for a shared sense of past.
It is important to examine the tensions between traditional quantitative methods of media use research and the practice of contemporary collaborative ethnography and narrative research. Traditional modes of media audience measurement treat people as markets and work to look directly at media effects and discourses of mass culture whereas narrative and ethnographic research aims to explore media use in everyday life and habits that surround the practice. This results in a deeper understanding of the ways in which the progressions in technology mark changes in time and space, therefore significantly making a contribution to quantitative audience research.
Lassiter describes collaborative ethnography as “resituating collaborative practice at every stage of the ethnographic process, from fieldwork to writing and back again” and we are able to do via interviews, self reports and observations. He adds that this research involves “engaging others in the context of their real, everyday lives” and this provides us as researchers with “a point of departure for beginning an in-depth exploration of the history and theory behind a collaborative ethnography.” (An excerpt from The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography by Luke Eric Lassiter)
It is easy to see why media use in everyday life is of such interest to ethnographers. An example of ethnographic research in regards to television use is in the revelation that people watch TV for different reasons. Case studies can reveal the reasons behind TV use and this can inform media producers, advertises and anyone interested in information regarding television audiences. Media practices are social in nature as they depend on spatial influences such as who participates, what form the media may take, where it is consumed and when.
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