“Ethnography is the systematic description of the single contemporary culture often through fieldwork” (Laragy, ND) simply put, ethnography is the practice of anthropological researched that is based on the observation of people’s way of life. This method, in relation to the project is seemingly fitting; the process of gathering data is ideal to understanding different ways of life through less conventional methods. There is much criticism surrounding ethnographical methods in relation to the aims of the research, many believe that the researcher cannot be neutral or objective or possibly work out of their own systematic values and assumptions. Bill Ashcroft in his work The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures, makes the clear distinction between what is known, and how it is culturally ‘constructed’ rather than being discovered through the ethnographic research methods. Alan Bryman, in his book Social research Methods, explains that in ethnographic research the observer should “immerse him- or herself in a group for an extended period of time, observing behaviour, listening to what is said in conversations with the fieldworker asking questions.2 (Bryman, 2012, pg. 432) He confirms later that Ethnography is often preferred to participant observation, due to the fact participant observation implies that their will only be observation, although he states that in participant practice observes do more than simply observe (Bryman, 2012, pg. 432)
The term “Micro-ethnography” to Bryman, is stated as being more suitable to an undergraduate project, as he believes it is unlikely to be able to conduct full scale ethnography. Micro-ethnography involves focusing in a particular aspect of a topic, in relation to our project this has been decided, (examples could be the different behaviours of individual’s, dependant on the location in the city- East and West)
Overt and Covert ethnography
Covert ethnography, meaning that the researcher is not to disclose that they are researching may have many advantages in terms of collected data, but ethical issues arise often. The researcher, being undisclosed, may mean the subjects being observed and reported on act in a more natural way; this is often seen due to participants changing their behaviour in order to give the researcher the answers they believe they are looking for. By being ‘under cover’ the researcher is likely to gather more accurate data, with realistic behaviours noted. Whilst these advantages are extremely helpful, the ethical issues surrounding it often turn the researcher away from being undisclosed; many participants will/would have wanted their consent given before being used in a study, or might not be comfortable with being observed at all. Whilst this is an issue in an intimate environment with few participants it might not have such an impact on the mass scale being dealt with, the individuals that are being observed in Berlin will not be singled out for a length of time, is they are in many ethnographic research settings, but simply viewed from afar, concentrating on their image and body language.
Alan Bryman: Social Research Methods volume 4 2012