Saturday, April 02, 2005

Chapter Eight of The Ethnographic Interview (Spradley, 1979)

Ethnographic analysis is the search for the parts of a culture and their relationships as conceptualized by informants. It involves a way of thinking that can be viewed from more than one way. An informant's cultural knowledge is more than random bits of information: this knowledge is organized into categories, all of which are systematically related to the entire culture. The aim of this analysis is to discover this organization of cultural knowledge, therefore we have to avoid imposing categories from outside.

The usual squence is:
1. Selecting a problem. Same general problem is: What are the cultural meanings people are using to organize their behavior and interpret their experience? Same typical narrowed-down question would be: What are the cultural meanings people are using to organize their kinship behavior and interpret this aspect if their experience? We do not do ethnographic study for the sake of doing an ethnographic study. There should be a problem that we want to solve/find out.
2. Collecting cultural data (this is where it differs from typical social science research which fornulate hypotheses first).
3. Analyzing cultural data.
4. Formulating ethnographic hypotheses.
5. Writing the ethnography. Remember: writing is a refined process of analysis.

Relational theory of meaning (p.95-99):
1. Cultural meaning systems are encoded in symbols.
2. Language is the primary system that encodes cultural meaning in every society. Language can be used to talk about all other encoded sysmbols.
3. The meaning of any symbol is its relationship to other symbols in a particular culture.
4. The task of ethnography is to decode cultural symbols and identify the underlying coding rules. This can be accomplished by discovering the relationships among cultural symbols.

Symbols (things that we can perceive or experience) have referential meanings.

Domains (p.100-105)
A domain is any symbolic category that includes other categories is a domain. It names things in the informant's world, and consists members that share at least one feature of meaning. It has the below elements in its structure:
1. Cover Term
2. Semantic Relationship: e.g. (x) is a way to (y)
3. Included Terms
4. Boundary

To arrive to decision of "domains" we must first:
1. Select a sample of verbatim interview notes.
2. Look for names for things.
3. Identify possible cover terms and included terms from the sample.
4. Search through additional interview notes for other included terms.


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