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Hitting the Mark

Yesterday I spent three hours with a local realtor considered a key opinion leader in her field.

Towards the end of our time together, she gave me one of the biggest compliments you can give an ethnographer. “I forgot you were filming. You got me eating,” she said. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but toot toot! In fieldwork, it’s really important that we are as unobtrusive as possible. Because that’s how we learn what we learn!

Just in case you’re wondering, here are some indicators you are hitting the mark in fieldwork:

“I forgot you were here.” I had a nurse say this to me after I had been shadowing her all day to learn how she administered chemotherapy to patients.

“My husband doesn’t know about those.”
Sometimes family members will share things with us they don’t even share with each other. We were actually there for the moment a husband told his wife of more than 30 years that he had overactive bladder. He had kept it from her for a long time, and she was a nurse!

“Let me show you.” It’s really important that we see what our participants are talking about, so having them show us how they do something means a lot more than having them simply tell us.

“Oh yeah, I forgot about the money.” There is an incentive involved for our participants. It’s not a lot, but it does thank them for allowing us to spend time in their lives. We can’t tell you how many times at the end of fieldwork this has happened.

“This was fun. I never get to talk about myself!” Every one has a story to tell, and most people actually thank us for letting them share about themselves without dominating the conversation.

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Categories: Ethnography, Interview
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