Digital research-Diaries

Ethnography research in Birmingham (Field trip)

Before we went to the field trip, I’ve read the reference material ahead, and started to know what ethnography is. Then, after the real practice in Birmingham, I found this topic really helps me with my final project, and will continue to explore more.

From the reading, Ethnography is a methodology. It is considered as a colonial method that how Western world form the knowledge about the non-Western ones. The pivotal cognitive mode ethnographic methodology is ” observation”, and it comprises two research strategies: non-participant observation and participant observation. The difference from ethnography to an interview or a survey is the gap between attitudes and behavior, between what people say and what they do. ( Gilbert and Mulkay, 1983)

There are three terms that merge with ‘ethnography’: participant observation, fieldwork and case study, and the expression of case study denotes research on a system bounded in space and time and embedded in a particular physical and social-culture context. The main cognitive aim is to abandon the nature attitude that takes social conventions and everyday behavior for granted as normal or obvious. (Gobo, 2008)


Birmingham Ethnography-making the familiar seem strange

Task 1: People watching

The task is to observe people and watch them for a while, to describe what the process felt like.

  • Many people are busying in this big city. At first, I didn’t get the feeling of focus, because it’s been a long time since we are busing about our own life and always been rush on time, even when relaxing, we depend on cellphones. After 10mins around I guess, I started to calm down and immersed in the settled condition. Surprisingly, I was thinking it would be embarrass if I put my eye on one passager for a long time, but the truth is, almost no one noticed me. I enjoyed the ‘invisible’ condition thus my brain got to think.
  • Two soldiers with paper files in hands, their uniforms are a bit old, but they look tall and straight. They roaming around look s like waiting for some people. Their walking style is different from others obviously, more forward and strong, a sense of fear but also safety arose. I noticed their hats looks like the airman, with a cut feather on. They look outstanding among all. The others seems soft and tender within the same environment around them. What an interesting thing!
  • A short guy walking with his one hand on mouth, serious eyes looking worryly. Maybe he has just finished his tired work and going to fix his broken shower, a man clean as him can never bear. But I like his wearying style, the fashion suite with light colour. So impressed on his light blue shirt.
  • Some classmates passed by, they look relax with nothing to do, more like a tourist, laughing and chatting happily, taking photos with buildings around. I think they’ve just finished their task.

A new thought come into my mind that if I concentrated on the strangers, I think I can read them a little, from their emotions on their face, their body movement, as their behaviour. I don’t think wether I could guess it right, but my old experience told me that I could get more informations than I was a kid. Something outside always comes from the inner space, and as a human, we mostly conditioned reflect the same. That make us easier to ‘read’ people,the social actors, to apply the non-participate observation way of ethnography research.


Task 2: Crisis of representation

Two poems which respond to Birmingham city center.
“center” and “margin”

  1. Being around the striking place,

           Looking not decent is a guilt.

           Shame drive out who doesn’t belong to this noblest palace,

           Junoesque, cornucopia, brownstone paradise.


         2. Sneaking around the striking place,

             Making no worth is a disabled.

             Fame hook in who has any kinds of priorities, 

             Leaving behind the shadow of homeless, dirty, miserable hell. 


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