Video Ethnography Project

Goal: The goals of this project are to document how real people on campus or in the local area engage in some meaningful activity. You should have already made contact with the people in an interesting activity setting for your earlier projects. If those contacts are still working, collect your video there. If, for some reason you cannot, or choose not to, collect video in that setting, you should quickly find another setting where you can collect video data.

Getting Started: I strongly recommend you re-read many of the methodological readings associated with ethnography, participant observation, and cognitive ethnography as you carry out this project. I especially recommend you have another look at Robert F. Williams, “Using Cognitive Ethnography to Study Instruction” and Lindlof & Taylor, “Participating, Observing, and Recording Social Action”.

Part 1: Transcription of Activity in Video from Your Setting


  1. Remember that you cannot collect any video data until you have obtained informed consent. All participants in the activity being videoed (or who might be incidentally videoed) must sign the video consent form.
  2. Make observations: You may already have observed, photographed, and interviewed some members of the community. In this project you should conduct a more systematic study of the ways that people make meaning in everyday activity. Talk to the people and observe them in the activity. Take notes on their activities, describe their tasks, and videotape a person or, preferably, persons interacting with their environment or with one another. Collect at least 15 minutes of video.
  3. Create an index and select clips for analysis: Using the method introduced in the interview activity, create an index for your video. Select clips totaling at least 30 seconds duration for analysis.
  4. Transcribe clips: Make a detailed transcription of the activity in your selected clips. Use the assigned readings for models of ways to transcribe non-verbal aspects of on-going activity. Here is a sample transcript by Professor Edwin Hutchins.

Part 2: Analysis of Activity in Video


  1. Analysis: Analyze the recorded activity using the concepts presented in the lectures and readings.
  2. Write up the analysis. Be sure your analysis makes use of the concepts in the readings.
  3. Please also turn in a copy of your index and transcription. It is expected that you will have made changes to these during the course of your analysis.

Maximum 1000 words of text for your analysis. Attach the index, transcript, and any additional figures and tables.

Due 4/30, in class. You will have to give a relatively informal presentation of your project. If you have received consent to use the video in a classroom setting, you may show clips if you bring them in a suitable format. (Please make arrangements ahead of time.)

This project is optional. You can choose to do it or to complete the Theoretical Research Paper assignment.

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