Charting new territory for organizational ethnography: Insights from a team-based video ethnography

Smets, Michael, Burke, Gary, Jarzabkowski, Paula and Spee, Paul (2014) Charting new territory for organizational ethnography: Insights from a team-based video ethnography. Journal of Organizational Ethnography, 3 (1). pp. 10-26.

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Purpose – Increasing complexity, fragmentation, mobility, pace, and technological intermediation of organizational life make “being there” increasingly difficult. Where do ethnographers have to be, when, for how long, and with whom to “be there” and grasp the practices, norms, and values that make the situation meaningful to natives? These novel complexities call for new forms of organizational ethnography. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the above issues.

Design/methodology/approach – In this paper, the authors respond to these calls for innovative ethnographic methods in two ways. First, the paper reports on the practices and ethnographic experiences of conducting a year-long team-based video ethnography of reinsurance trading in London.

Findings – Second, drawing on these experiences, the paper proposes a framework for systematizing new approaches to organizational ethnography and visualizing the ways in which they are “expanding” ethnography as it was traditionally practiced.
Originality/value – The paper contributes to the ethnographic literature in three ways: first, the paper develops a framework for charting new approaches to ethnography and highlight its different dimensions – site, instrument, and fieldworker. Second, the paper outlines the opportunities and challenges associated with these expansions, specifically with regard to research design, analytical rigour, and communication of results. Third, drawing on the previous two contributions, the paper highlights configurations of methodological expansions on the aforementioned dimensions that are more promising than others in leveraging new technologies and approaches to claim new territory for organizational ethnography and enhance its relevance for understanding today’s multifarious organizational realities.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Video, Multi-site, Team-based ethnography, professional services, organisation studies, professional service firms
Subject(s): Professional services
Centre: Centre for Professional Firms
Date Deposited: 06 May 2014 14:35
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2015 11:11
Funders: Insurance Intellectual Capital Initiative

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