On the Guangzhou – Portland express

Dscn3749I am leaving China today and I’ll be in Portland for the weekend if anyone wants to get together for coffee.

Ethnography fans, please come to the EPIC conference being staged by Intel in Portland.  You can get the full details here.  If you can make it, I’m speaking Monday morning. 

Speaking of ethnography, this was a bruising trip.  I am not sure my ethnography will ever be the same. 

The art of ethnography includes two very different kinds of questions (at a minimum). 

The first class of question ask for detail, lots of detail, sometimes excrutiating detail.  These are "beater questions."  Their job is to flush out opportunities to ask the second class of questions.   These are opportunities to gather not detail but the stuff of culture: categories, rules, assumptions, conventions, concepts, notions, and so on.

One member of the team got swept up in the detail questions…and so preempted the interview with them that it was no longer possible to capture the hidden world from which these details spring.  Anthropology believes in thoroughgoing specifications of ethnographic detail, but this was a brute, unrelieved empiricism and really bad methodology.

The image:

My tribute to bean counters.  Things for sale in a "wet-market."  (Click on the image if you want, yes, more detail.)

One thought on “On the Guangzhou – Portland express

Comments are closed.