As experience experts, ethnographic projects are some of our favorite opportunities to explore everything from the American mediascape to journey mapping patient experiences. For many of these projects, we have leveraged traditional in-home ethnography to gain an authentic look into the lives of our participants. We have worked to splice this established methodology with a dynamic field of research: digital ethnography. To establish this hybrid ethnography, we have paired conventional ethnographic methods with remote digital methods, including a newly minted tool: the GfK Participant Toolkit (PTK). As in any exploratory venture, we have had the opportunity to learn about which methods and tools work well, which work better, and develop best practices in this brand of research. Along the way, we have also learned about the challenges of conducting this type of long-term ethnographic research, and how to overcome them.
For any long-term ethnographic project, we would have to employ innovative data collection methods to retain invested and motivated participants. Our response was to design the PTK, a mobile device loaded with a curated suite of apps, uniquely combined to facilitate engagement and foster stimulating data collection for both researcher and participant. The PTK has become a pivotal factor in our ability to foster enduring participant interest. It has offered valuable opportunity to allow ongoing learning; because of the myriad capabilities baked into today’s mobile devices, the PTK has inspired us to constantly challenge the methods and techniques we typically use in obtaining data.
These challenges and best practices invite us to not only think about resolutions to these specific hurdles, but also help us better imagine where the limits of digital ethnography might lie. As we continue to explore the possibilities and affordances of cutting-edge technology, we are eager to explore and meet the awesome potential of digital tools in the ethnographic sphere.
What digital tools have you used in long-term research projects? In ethnography projects?
Eve Ejsmont is a Lead UX Specialist at GfK and can be contacted at Eve.Ejsmont@gfk.com.
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