Going Native

Autoethnography as a Design Tool

Authored by: Margot Duncan

Handbook of Design in Educational Technology

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415807340
eBook ISBN: 9780203075227
Adobe ISBN: 9781135118969


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Autoethnography is a 21st-century research methodology that has evolved from much earlier ethnographic practices. In the early 1900s, British social scientists, fascinated by exotic cultures, would travel to distant lands to observe ‘the natives’. They would collect artefacts and make observations which they recorded in journals to create stories, or ethnographies, of how other people lived. Over time, scientists became increasingly aware of how their presence in a foreign culture might influence the events that unfolded, potentially changing people’s behaviour and altering the stories they were told. They realised that they were not separate from what they were studying. This new awareness about the influence of the researcher on what was being observed became one of the signatures of ethnography and eventually led some researchers to consider studying themselves—hence the term ‘autoethnography’.

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