Selectivity & objectivity of digital media in ethnography
A challenge often heard in relation to ethnography, especially newer netnographic & social media based approaches, is that the selectivity, production and curation of media makes it a invalid observational record. This position views the content used by ethnographers as ‘objective data’ which shouldn’t be slurried by the intentions or creativity of the ethnographer.
However, Sarah Pink offers three criticisms of this position in relation to video, but they also hold up in relation to other forms of media.
1. Collecting digital media (video, pictures, audio) in a undisturbed or objective way is often a impossibility. When people’s behaviour is captured by any sort of media they ‘play up for the camera’ (or microphone). It follows that most media constructed to a greater or lesser extent.
2. Knowledge doesn’t necessarily exist as observable facts. Knowledge is produced through experience, through a interaction between the researcher and the subject matter. Not all knowledge is in the form of a objective reality which can be captured, recorded and stored.
3. Objectivity isn’t just a matter of a researchers intentions. Objectivity is contextual. At it’s broadest, media is objective when it is deemed to be objective when it’s viewers.
By adopting a contextual view of digital media’s objectivity you’re able to broaden the types, genres and sources of media you are able to include in a research project.