Last week we took a trip back into the past and discussed the memories our parents and grandparents had of the early days of television. It’s extremely difficult for us to imagine a time without it and its integration into the family home as a generation where it has always been a staple feature of the living room.
Findings were quite standard across all experiences, with the introduction of television to Australia in 1960, initially in black and white. For our parents, it was introduced around the time they were born, making it an easier incorporation into their routine. For our grandparents, however, it would have been an alien form of advanced technology that would have taken some getting used to. The birth of television and live broadcast symbolised the beginning of a technological revolution, one that was now accessible to the everyday household. Where before families gathered around the table for board games, television was now the centre focus of the night’s activities.
It also symbolised a whole new change in lifestyle and entertainment and the way young children learned about the world through play. Instead of heading outside, kids were spending much more time in front of the television watching programmes such as the Brady Bunch and Skippy. Thus, new habits were born and integrated into the family routine, developing further and further into the familial household activities we partake in now. People were now able to engage in events without being present and start to enter the globalising world of communications and entertainment.
For ethnographers, technology is a continuous study with so many aspects to look into that it’s almost overwhelming. A study that is often so present-day focused, it’s fascinating to look into the beginnings of the huge flurry of technological inventions and innovations that have since been introduced and constantly improved upon. It seems that technologies are converging across platforms and merging together, with the televisions that we know and use now being “smart” with the inclusion of the Internet. This also sparks a change in usage patterns: the amount of usage is definitely increasing, but how are we using it and interacting with it in different ways?
Ethnography answers these questions through undertaking research, involving interviewing, discussion and observation as a means of gaining insight into the habits of others and memories of times we weren’t present for. As such, ethnography can help uncover any problems or issues with people and their environments as it is a more observation focused research method. Ethnography gains an in-depth analysis of the behaviour and patterns of users through its extensive interviewing and observation, therefore proving itself above other research methods that are less personally focused.
In general, however, ethnographic studying of habits does tend to take longer than other research methods. As observation needs to be thorough, ethnographers find that they spend more time to gain this insight into behaviours and usage patterns. Subjects of the study additionally may not be acting completely naturally if they know their actions or the answers they are giving are being published.
While there are both advantages and disadvantages to ethnography, overall the advantages do outweigh these disadvantages as the insightful information gained is a direct observation of usage. Findings are much more useful to ethnographers when analysing human behaviour to determine usage patterns of modern technology.