I asked my dad about his most vivid TV memory and he immediately answered that it was the day he bought a surround sound system for the TV. He recalls being amazed at the new technology available, especially for the home. My dad is nuts about technology and seems to literally thrive on the advancements. Our home is filled with computers, tablets, telescopes (he is an avid astronomer as well, and owns a telescope that rivals me in height), multiple laptops, and an enormous TV that only he actually watches. Honestly, I’ve forgotten how to even switch the channel on the TV.
It was no surprise that he would talk about the technology of TV rather than a show or an event centred around it. I, on the other hand, recall rushing home in time to see That’s So Raven and, most recently, standing in a family friend’s living room and seeing news coverage of the Sydney Siege. I had been in the US at the time, and was astounded that the Siege had made international news in such a short time, merely five hours after it began. It’s a memory I’ll be hard-pressed to forget. I still have the texts from my mum telling me to switch on the news.
Last week, we were asked how collaborative ethnographic research could be used to analyse contemporary media use in the home and using the stories found on my classmates’ blogs, it can be easy to classify these into categories on contemporary media use.
For example, from Isabel’s post, both she and her mum are awed by the different technologies invented for TV. This is also experienced by one of Giverny’s interviewees, who watched colour TV for three days straight when they first got it.
It also happens that Steph’s gran, Jarrah’s dad, and Jo’s gran recalled watching the moon landing. So obviously I had to form a new category for this single TV event.
I could go on and form so many other categories and each would overlap in some way. Each person who has media and technology in their house uses it differently, but their viewing habits are unlikely to be singular when surveyed in a large pool of people. With ethnographic research, we can see whether there are patterns to media uses – for instance, is there a larger occurrence of banned shows in the 1960s? Or perhaps there could be more people from the ’90s that were allowed to watch TV during dinner. Different media habits could occur different cities, for all we know.
It is through other people’s experiences that we can learn information, and then put it together to form patterns of the way humans live. Of course that’s not all we can use ethnography for, but it’s definitely a useful way to find out more about ourselves and our neighbours. All it takes is to listen.