Russell made a really good point in his Campaign column a couple of weeks ago. Just posting it here so that more people see it and it doesn’t get lost:
Planners and researchers, always looking for new insights into the same old markets, seized on ethnography as a tool a few years ago and delivered quite a few useful and revelatory insights. Quickly, though, it became clear that actual ethnography was slow and expensive. Not a problem for us, of course – we just invented a whole new version of ethnography unencumbered by conventional protocols or rigour.
So now there are two schools of ethnography – one means spending a long time getting to understand a particular community in depth, the other involves visiting someone in Reading and photographing their fridge.
We’ve turned ethnography from a social science to a commercial tool. That’s not valueless, not at all, but it short-changes practitioners of both schools to pretend they’re the same thing.