Your lens or their lens: The widening world of Mobile Ethnography
In a world of “selfies” mobile ethnography taps exactly into that: selfies, but for research; especially for market research.
Mobile ethnography is derived from two words – mobile and ethnography.
Anthropologist H Sidky has said that ethnography documents cultural similarities and differences through empirical fieldwork and can help with scientific generalizations about human behavior and the operation of social and cultural systems.
In the market research world, mobile ethnography gives us an insight into the physical world and thoughts of the consumer. It gives us real-time data of the consumer, his/her life, their physical world and a sneak peek into their thought processes.
Since ethnography is carried through a handheld device, its usability among today’s consumers is high. Today very few people think of leaving their home without their phones.
Yet, it is wrong and dangerous to presume that if your research includes a mobile device, it qualifies as mobile ethnography research. The core principle of studying consumers in their own world but using the mobile more than face-to-face interviews or participant self-reported observations is what makes mobile ethnography a handy tool for researchers. Thus, the fact that your respondents work as your behavioural detectives is what sets the technique apart.
We at idstats have been using mobile ethnography from as early as 2012 to study consumer lives across Asia and beyond. This article here outlines our experiences and thoughts about the same. (link to our article).
As with any methodology or process, mobile ethnography has its share of advantages and disadvantages and thus needs to be leveraged with care.