Ethnomethodology: how people make sense of their life

Introduced by the American sociologist Harold Garfinkel, ethnomethodology is, together with symbolic interactionism and dramaturgical, one of the most garfinkelrelevant perspective in the field of qualitative research. This tradition concerned with studying routines of everyday life and their production. How people make sense of their lives? The order and harmony of our lives depends on simple but very rooted behaviors. Watch this video before providing further details. The first scene is enough (you´d better omit the rest of the video)

What happens when girls cheer on the waiter? Is their behavior part of our routine? Is the social order or harmony interrupted in this situation? Read now this passage on an experiment developed by the founder of this tradition, Garfinkel:

Garfinkel asked some of his students to act like guests when they return home, in front of their families. From fifteen minutes up to one hour, students maintained a polite distance, talked about general issues rather than personal topics, requesting permission to use the bathroom or to take a glass of water, expressing his gratitude to the “host” for their kind hospitality. Two of the forty-nine families thought the students were joking and ignored the behavior; the others were upset or teased. Family members requested explanations: what happens? What is it? You’re sick? What kind of creature are you? Why are you angry? Are you getting crazy or stupid?

Both in the video and in the passage, people involved behave unconventionally. What does it mean? Everyone share a number of conventional assumptions with the member of one´s social group, community, town or city, country or culture. These assumptions are part of our everyday life. Saying hello when arriving home, shaking hands or being grateful. When it happens that one behaves against such assumptions, one social disorder takes somehow place.

What does it mean in terms of market research? Do you buy products that are against your conventional assumptions? Many marketing campaigns have actually failed because of lack of sensitivity with some conventional assumptions. Like the suggested in this post. Do you know any other case? What do you think about this campaign launched by Polish tourism organization in 2005 in France? Do you think it goes against French conventional assumptions?

against conventional assumptions

Reference

Craig J. Calhoun, Donald Light, Suzanne Infeld Keller. Sociology. McGraw-Hill, 2000.
Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited
Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology (p. 1). NJ: Englewood Cliffs.
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Symbolic interactionism: understanding consumer behavior

http://web.lemoyne.edu/~hevern/nr-theorists-ph...

Originated with one key theorist, George Herbert Mead, symbolic interactionism is, together with dramaturgical and ethnomethodology, one of the most relevant perspectives in the field of qualitative research. Which are its theoretical assumptions? Everyone behave symbolically. What does it mean? It means that many of our behavior, both verbal and nonverbal, are the symbol of something. For instance, shaking hands are a symbol of agreement in many countries. But does it have the same meaning all over the world? What is more, does it have the same meaning for a teenager than for an adult?.

Secondly, watch this video. It is an experiment leaded by Washington post. See what happens when Joshua Bell, one of the nation’s greatest musicians played in the DC Metro during rush hour.

Many passer-by in the video, with high cultural and economic capital judging by the context, would have paid good money out for attending one Joshua´s concert. However, just a few people seemed to notice his presence. What does it mean? Apart from differences according to countries and cultures, our behavior may be explained by the context in which people is in. In other terms, people give a particular meaning to particular context. What do you think is the meaning of DC Metro during rush hour.

What does it mean in terms of market research? People give symbolic meaning not only to such gestures as shaking hands or contexts but also to products. What does consuming wine mean in western cultures? What about eastern European countries? What does it mean for younger people? Perhaps, this product is seen as an older-for drink in comparison with beer. But we can be more specific. Which meaning people give to brand A and which one to brand B. In other words, what people think when see your product, the package, the colors or logo? Try to understand the meaning given to your brand by mean the different qualitative research techniques. The success of your marketing strategy may depend on it.

Reference

Craig J. Calhoun, Donald Light, Suzanne Infeld Keller. Sociology. McGraw-Hill, 2000.
Blunter, H. (1994). Society as symbolic interaction. Symbolic Interaction: An Introduction to Social Psychology, 263.
Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited

Research perspective in the field of qualitative research

TsmyaA simple glance on the cartoon does not leave room for doubt. Whatever your perspective, whatever your research´s results. In the field of qualitative research there are several approaches. These are different in their theoretical assumptions, in the way we understand the object of study.  There are three mainstreams: symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, dramaturgical perspective. They will explain in detail in following posts. Suffice to say here what their essence is:

1. Symbolic interactionism. How individuals interact with each other and within society by mean symbols. In other words, what such gestures as shaking hands or leaning ahead mean for us and for other cultures? (See further details here)

2. Ethnomethodology. How people make sense of their lives? The order and harmony of our lives depends on simple but very rooted behaviors. (See Harold Garfinkel)

3. Dramaturgical perspective. What sort of person is behind the role we play? Your professor, your boss, your employee? Are they as they seem to be? This perspective assumes that our role depends on the context and the people we are talking to. (See Erving Goffman)

References

Craig J. Calhoun, Donald Light, Suzanne Infeld Keller. Sociology. McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited