Seminar on Qualitative Methods in Design Session 3: Describing Culture Gunnar Stevens Human Computer Interaction University of Siegen, Germany MALINOWSKI 1922 (FIRST PRINT). INTRODUCTION (CHAP 1). IN: ARGONAUTS OF THE WESTERN PACIFIC, ROUTLEDGE. Summary ‣ Highlights the aim of ethnography as “to give a clear and firm outline of the social constitution, and to disentangle the laws and regularities of all cultural phenomena from the irrelevances.” ‣ “I consider that only such ethnographic sources are of unquestionable scientific value, in which we can clearly draw the line between (…) direct observation (…) and (…) the interferences of the author, based on his common sense and psychological insight.” (i.e. you need to make clear what and how you gathered your data) Summary II ‣ “An ethnographer who sets out to study only religion, or only technology, or only social organization cuts out an artificial field for inquiry, and he will be seriously handicapped in his work.” (i.e. you need a holistic view on the subject) ‣ The natives obey the forces and commands of the tribal code, but they do not comprehend them (i.e. you cannot simply ask them to explain their social rules). ‣ There are important aspects of social life which can only be observed, but not recorded by interviews: the imponderabilia of actual life. ‣ Its good to sometimes “to put aside camera, note book and pencil, and join (…) in what is going on.” Summary III ‣ Three avenues for ethnographic research: ‣ The organizations of the tribe, and the anatomy of it’s culture: concrete, statistical documentation ‣ The imponderabilia of actual life, and the type of behavior: minute, detailed observations ‣ The corpus inscriptionum (tales, narratives): documents of native mentality (ways of thinking and feeling) ‣ Aim: “This goal is, briefly, to grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realise his vision of his world. We have to study man, and we must study what concerns him most intimately, that is, the hold which life has on him. “ WHAT IS THE AUTHOR … … MOST CONCERNED ABOUT? … MOST OPTIMISTIC ABOUT? GEERTZ, 1977. THICK DESCRIPTION: TOWARDS AN INTERPRETIVE THEORY OF CULTURE, THE INTERPRETATION OF CULTURES. Summary ‣ “Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun.” -> studies of meaning, interpretive ‣ Ethnography is not about methods, its an intellectual effort (It is “thick description” vs. mere phenomenology). ‣ “What we call our data are really our own constructions of other people’s constructions of what they and their compatriots are up to (…).” ‣ “Analysis, then, I sorting out the structures of signification (…), and determining their social ground and import.” ‣ Anthropological writings are interpretations, are fictions. They have to be measured against how much they are able to clarify what goes on in the field (thick description). Summary II ‣ “The ethnographer “inscribes” social discourse; he writes it down.” Not as raw social discourse, but as interpretation. ‣ The locus of study is not the object of study. Ethnographies are microscopic, but offer broader interpretations. ‣ “one cannot write a General Theory of Cultural Interpretation. Or, rather, one can, but there appears to be little profit in it, because the essential task (…) is not to codify abstract regularities but to make thick description possible, not to generalize across cases but to generalize within them.” ‣ Cultural Theory is not predictive (at most it anticipates). WHAT IS THE AUTHOR … … MOST CONCERNED ABOUT? … MOST OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?