Ethnography Reflection

On Tuesday’s class (9/11/18), we went outside to take observational notes and considered the small details of our surroundings of life adjacent to the student commons. At first, I thought it to be slightly strange, watching other people go about secretly, but after settling in and started writing things down, it was captivating. Formulating notes on what people are doing is definitely not a daily event for me, but it opened my eyes to how much you can infer the meaning of a situation by the way people dress, talk, motion, walk, etc. For instance, the mood can almost be omniscient throughout students grazing by the campus: Faces down, looking at phones, earbuds in, eerily quiet, its 10:30 in the morning and everyone is tired and gloomy, backpacks on entering different lecture halls. The mood? No one is in a good mood to go to class, and it’s only Tuesday. What about the older woman going into the commons, child in hand quietly saying hello to others, a student? Most likely not at the moment for class, no backpack, it was breakfast time, and the kid looked eager and the mom was looking forward with some determination, on her way to somewhere inside, potentially to eat. You can notice a lot from ethnography.

Performing the assignment in class seemed simple, but I can realize that ethnography isn’t always quick and simple, and it takes a keen eye and mind to get the hang of it. Some challenges ethnography and our project brought to my attention were how close you need to keep an eye on the situation, or you might miss a transition of scenery or people, or misinterpret one’s “goal” of an event. However, I feel that an hour of time at a given place observing is a decent amount of time to give for the assignment, but one of the challenges is knowing what you are looking at. Such as in a group of people interacting, what role do they play in the rest of the group, what kind of things could they be talking about with their hand gestures, are the people friends/coworkers/strangers? I think it will be difficult at first but I believe it will make me more conscious of the little things after it is said and done.


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