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留学生定制assignment需求-IMPORTANT NOTE-The participant observer ox(2)

时间:2011-03-14 16:39来源:留学生论文网 编辑:英国作业网 点击:
Emphasis on participation These ideas can also be seen to some extent in the naturalism of the Chicago School ethnographers. Here naturalism is a perspective that sees the world as real, and acknowled

Emphasis on participation
These ideas can also be seen to some extent in the naturalism of the Chicago School ethnographers. Here naturalism is a perspective that sees the world as real, and acknowledges that it can be studied scientifically, but challenges some of the assumptions of empiricism. It is more interpretive (interpretivism). Chicago sociologists conducted their research in the natural worlds of social interaction. They drew on ideas from phenomenology, hermeneutics and symbolic interactionism in their understandings of how society works. Participation therefore had more of a central role in participant observation since it was essential to begin to interpret and understand respondents’ meanings. However, there remained a desire to abstract and generalise beyond the specific case (Denzin, 1989). As philosophies of social science have moved increasingly towards a theory of the social world as co-constructed so ethnographers have argued that it is essential to take part in this construction in order to understand it (see Ellen, 1984; Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995). According to this approach, the social world is indeterminate and does not exist independently of our desire to understand it. As Denzin  (1989: 26) states: ‘meaningful interpretations of human experience can only come from those persons who have thoroughly immersed themselves in the phenomenon they wish to interpret and understand.’ Critical, feminist and post-positivist ethnographers now want to reclaim some emphasis on the reality of the external world while acknowledging the need to understand its impacts from the perspective of those experiencing it (see realism).

The aims of participation
In fact it is, I believe, futile to attempt to resolve the participant observation oxymoron and to come down on the side of either participation or observation, objectivity or subjectivity. We have reached a point where it is crucial to acknowledge the role, value and contribution of scientific endeavour while remaining fully aware that humans (including ethnographers) make their worlds. Like Schutz (1971) and Maso (2001) I believe the tension is exactly the point. Ethnographers need to both empathise and sympathise, to balance destrangement and estrangement. Participating enables the strange to become familiar, observing enables the familiar to appear strange. The important thing is for ethnographers to consider why they want to use participation - to what ends. The reasons for participating will affect the extent to which one participates rather than observes. In fact, ethnographers now disagree about the extent to which we can learn through participation.

For some the role of participation is simply to get close enough to be able to collect data in an objective, detached way, through observation, informal interviews, collecting statistical data, taking photographic evidence and so on. Participation can be used to enable access to different groups of people at different times, in a variety of settings within which questions can be asked as they occur to the ethnographer. Events can be observed as and when they take place rather than being remembered to be reconstructed at a later date through other means. When Laud Humphreys studied anonymous sexual encounters in a men's toilet in a public park in Chicago, his aim was to observe acts in an undisturbed form. He says ‘To employ…any strategies that might distort either the activity observed or the profile of those who engage in it would be foreign to my scientific philosophy’(1970: 21). Thus participant observation enables direct observation rather than a reliance on informants’ accounts. More recently, Gavin Smith (2007) has given similar justification for his participation role in CCTV control rooms. Smith saw himself as a ‘sociological voyeur’, using participation to limit his effect on the natural setting.



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