In response to Colin McKay’s comment on my last post, I felt impelled to put up this detail of the TRL shirt I was wearing at the PE shoot.

Being the ironic scamp that I am 😉 , I had altered the shirt when I first bought it. (In the original picture, it’s hard to see the alteration–a letter ‘L’ in red marker after the word ‘trivia,’ so no slight on Colin for not having noticed it!)

The interesting thing here is how strongly these kinds of details–T-shirts, logos, cultural touchpoints–broadcast messages, and how easily the messaging can get confused if all the details are not available.

The complexity of messaging and the importance of small details is something worth thinking about in the context of ethnographic research. In any given observation or interaction, are enough of the crucial details coming across? Is the context clear? Are there layers of meaning?

In order to parse what are actual data and what are our own ideas triggered by real world phenomena (which are an important but different kind of artifact), it’s so essential to surface, probe and challenge our interpretations and assumptions.

This probing and clarifying-the separation of observation, analysis, and synthesis–is a significant piece of what makes conducting ethnographic research different from simply going out and watching people.


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