The ethnography of communication was initially proposed as a program of research in 1962 by Dell Hymes. Since then it has developed into a comprehensive philosophy, theory, and methodology for systematically investigating communication practice. The guiding questions ask about the culturally distinctive means of communication and their meanings to the participants who use them. On the one hand, ethnographers of communication ask what means or media of communication people use in contexts. These may include words, images, and sounds; specific channels, including oral, print, electronic, face-to-face, and the Internet; or any combination thereof. A related question asks what the meanings of these means of communication are for the people who use them. The basic philosophy is an investigative one that explores the particularity and diversity of communication practices in social contexts; the theory provides a range of concepts for understanding sociocultural lives as a complex system of communication practices; the methodology includes stringent criteria for generating various types of data based upon observational field research, various types of interviewing, and archival data, among other sources; methods for analyzing data include rigorous attention to descriptive, interpretive, and comparative procedures, each with its own set of techniques. A key and essential aspect of this type of research is interpretive inquiry that focuses analysts’ attention on the participants’ meanings of the communication they produce.
Article. 9717 words.
Subjects: Communication Studies
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