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Microethnography

Curtis LeBaron


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Microethnography, sometimes called video ethnography, addresses “big” social and organizational issues through careful analysis of “small” moments of human activity. Working at a particular site or institution, such as an archeological dig or an investment bank, researchers create video recordings of activities as they naturally occur, i.e., activities that would have happened whether or not a camera was present. These recordings are then analyzed repeatedly and rigorously, with attention to the participants' talk (who says what, when, and how), their embodied behaviors (the relative location, orientation, and movement of people), and their use of things (objects, artifacts, tools, etc.). Video analyses are combined with other kinds of information, such as ethnographic data gathered through observations and interviews, altogether providing a variety of macro- and micro-views of social activity. Microethnographic research claims are grounded in the empirical details of actual behavior that are captured on video tape and made available to the scrutinizing audience. Researchers show how people interactively create and sustain the social and organizational realities that they inhabit. Although researchers may avoid explicit claims about the generalizability of site-specific findings, microethnographers assume that patterns and practices in one place will have relevance to other contexts. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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