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24 APRIL 2016

The Stances of the Observer in Participant Observation

"The degree to which the researcher involves himself/herself in participation in the culture under study makes a difference in the quality and amount of data he/she will be able to collect. GOLD (1958) has provided a description of observer stances that extend Buford JUNKER's explanation of four theoretical stances for researchers conducting field observations. GOLD relates the four observation stances as follows:

At one extreme is the complete participant, who is a member of the group being studied and who conceals his/her researcher role from the group to avoid disrupting normal activity. The disadvantages of this stance are that the researcher may lack objectivity, the group members may feel distrustful of the researcher when the research role is revealed, and the ethics of the situation are questionable, since the group members are being deceived.

In the participant as observer stance, the researcher is a member of the group being studied, and the group is aware of the research activity. In this stance, the researcher is a participant in the group who is observing others and who is interested more in observing than in participating, as his/her participation is a given, since he/she is a member of the group. This role also has disadvantages, in that there is a trade off between the depth of the data revealed to the researcher and the level of confidentiality provided to the group for the information they provide.

The observer as participant stance enables the researcher to participate in the group activities as desired, yet the main role of the researcher in this stance is to collect data, and the group being studied is aware of the researcher's observation activities. In this stance, the researcher is an observer who is not a member of the group and who is interested in participating as a means for conducting better observation and, hence, generating more complete understanding of the group's activities. MERRIAM (1998) points out that, while the researcher may have access to many different people in this situation from whom he/she may obtain information, the group members control the level of information given. As ADLER and ADLER (1994, p.380) note, this 'peripheral membership role' enables the researcher to 'observe and interact closely enough with members to establish an insider's identity without participating in those activities constituting the core of group membership.'

The opposite extreme stance from the complete participant is the complete observer, in which the researcher is completely hidden from view while observing or when the researcher is in plain sight in a public setting, yet the public being studied is unaware of being observed. In either case, the observation in this stance is unobtrusive and unknown to participants. [21]"

(Barbara B. Kawulich, 2005)

Kawulich, B. (2005). 'Participant Observation as a Data Collection Method'. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2). Retrieved from



2005 • Barbara Kawulich • Buford Junker • complete observer stance • complete participant stance • confidentiality • data collection method • data collection techniquesdeceptiondistrustfield methods • field observation • field research • field researcher • group membershipobjectivity • observation stances • observer as participant stance • observer stances • participant as observer stance • participant observation • Patricia Adler • peripheral membership role • Peter Adler • qualitative research • questionable ethics • Raymond Gold • researcher • researcher role • Sharan Merriam • sociological field observation • theoretical stances for researchers • typology of the participant observer roles


Simon Perkins

Organisations, practices, actors, and events: Exploring inside the distance running social world

"This paper revisits Unruh's notions of social worlds, exploring the organisations, practices, events and actors involved within the culture of distance running, as an increasingly popular leisure activity. An ethnographic research design was utilised using a combination of interviews, observation and participant observation. Data was collected over a two-year period on a weekly basis at two local distance running clubs, and also at a series of international distance running events. This study examines the distance running world from the 'emic' perspective of the twenty participants involved. The key findings illustrate how the distance running social world permits both development and confirmation of a running identity and, with it, social fulfilment. In addition to the four main components of a distance running social world, this paper highlights a paradox whereby individuals follow an individual pursuit within the social world of the distance running community – highlighting that the focus is on both the individual and the social, an area which sociologists have to date not extensively analysed within the context of sport."

(Richard Shipway, Immy Holloway and Ian Jones, 2013)

Richard Shipway, Immy Holloway, Ian Jones (2013). "Organisations, practices, actors, and events: Exploring inside the distance running social world", International Review for the Sociology of Sport 2013;48 259-276.


2013anthropology • behavioural science • collective identityDavid Unruh • distance runner • distance running • distance running community • emic • emic perspective • emics • ethnographic researchfield research • folkloristics • group membership • healthy body • healthy mind • Ian Jones • identity production • Immy Holloway • individual pursuit • interview (research method)leisure activity • observer • participant observation • Richard Shipway • running • running body • running club • running community • running identity • serious leisure • social fulfillment • social fulfilment • social groupsocial identity • social identity theory • social sciencesocial worldsocial worldssport and recreation • sport ethnography • sport tourism


Simon Perkins
04 APRIL 2014

YouTube: new forms of community, expression, identity, interaction

"This is the third lecture in a series titled 'Digital Natives,' referring to the generation that has been raised with the computer as a natural part of their lives, especially the young people who are currently in schools and colleges today. The series seeks to understand the practices and culture of the digital natives, the cultural implications of their phenomenon and the implications for education to schools, universities and libraries.

According to Wesch, it took tens of thousands of years for writing to emerge after humans spoke their first words. It took thousands more before the printing press appeared and a few hundred again before the telegraph did. Today a new medium of communication emerges every time somebody creates a new web application. 'A Flickr here, a Twitter there, and a new way of relating to others emerges,' Wesch said. 'New types of conversation, argumentation and collaborations are realized.'

Enter YouTube, which is not just a technology. 'It's a social space built around video communication that is searchable, taggable and mashable,' Wesch said. 'It is a space where identities, values and ideas are produced, reproduced, challenged and negotiated in new ways.'"

(Library of Congress, 22 May 2008)

Fig.1 Michael Wesch, 23 June 2008, Library of Congress []



2008amateur cultural production • anthenticity crisis • anthropologyappropriation • AtheneWins • authenticity • Bomb Iran (song) • Charlie Bit My Finger (2007) • Chevrolet Tahoe • Chevycollaborative productioncommunication mediumcommunity building • connection without constraint • context collapse • cultural anthenticity • demassified mediadigital ethnographydigital nativedigital texts • Dragostea Din Tei • fakesterflash frameFlickr • gaming the system • Gary Brolsma • global connectivity • Hi YouTube • home videohuman interaction • identity negotiation • identity performanceidentity production • illumistream • individualism • Kansas State University • Lawrence LessigLibrary of Congress • LisaNova • LonelyGirl15 • MadV • Marshall McLuhanmedia culture • media ecology • mediascapemediated culturememeMichael Weschnetworked individualismnetworked production • new forms of community • new forms of expression • new forms of identity • new forms of interactionnew media • new types of conversation • new ways of engaging • new ways of relating to others • Numa Numa (video) • participant observationparticipatory mediaprinting press • re-taking identity • reappropriation • Regina Spektor • remix cultureremixingRobert Putnam • seriously playful participatory media culture • sharingsocial space • Soulja Boy (video) • telegraph • user-generated content • video communication • video lecturevideo sharingvlogweb applicationwebcamYouTube


Liam Birtles
10 FEBRUARY 2013

Inventory of research methods for librarianship and informatics

"This article defines and describes the rich variety of research designs found in librarianship and informatics practice. Familiarity with the range of methods and the ability to make distinctions between those specific methods can enable authors to label their research reports correctly. The author has compiled an inventory of methods from a variety of disciplines, but with attention to the relevant applications of a methodology to the field of librarianship. Each entry in the inventory includes a definition and description for the particular research method. Some entries include references to resource material and examples."

(Jonathan D. Eldredge, 2004, Journal of the Medical Library Association)


2004academic researchanalysisaudit • autobiography • bibliomining • biographycase study • citation analysis • cohort design • comparative study • content analysisdata mining • definition and description • delphi method • descriptive survey • focus group • gap analysis • historyinformaticsinventory • inventory of methods • JMLA • Journal of the Medical Library Association • librarianship • library science • library studies • longitudinal studymeta-analysis • narrative review • participant observation • programme evaluation • randomised controlled trial • research designresearch methodresearch methodsresearch reports • summing up • systematic reviews • unobtrusive observation


Simon Perkins
01 APRIL 2012

Information Environments: Realising the geo/graphic landscape of the everyday

"Graphic design and typography give visual form to communication. For geographers this is the oft–ignored liminal space between landscape and its description, author and reader. For designers it is a crucial part of the communication process. This practice–led inquiry proposes that by developing a cross–disciplinary geo/graphic design process thus establishing the visualisation of space as a process itself, and not by the product of scientific investigation, designers will engage with place in a more proactive and productive way in terms of community, content and communication. Chosen for its complexity and its contrasting juxtapositions, the London Borough of Hackney will be used as the research and testing ground for the enquiry. Contrasting definitions of place will be used to underpin the project. [Doreen] Massey's notion of place as process and [Yi–Fu] Tuan's vision of place as pause will frame the study in such a way as to recognise place as a postmodern site of spontaneity and chance, but one that is shaped and known by events both past and present. An ethnographic methodology will be used to gather and analyse content. Methods of collection will include cultural probes, participant observation and interviews. This content will then be used to develop a series of print based design projects that will explore the problem of representation in a postmodern context, and lead to the articulation and testing of a geo/graphic design process."

(Alison Barnes, London College of Communication)



2011AHRC • Alison Barnes • Bachelor of Design • cultural geography • cultural probes • David Crow • Design Council (UK)design processdesign researcherDoreen Massey • Edinburgh University • Eric Laurier • everyday • geographic landscape • geographygraphic designerHackney • Information Environments (research centre) • interdisciplinary method • LCCliminal spaceLondon College of Communication (UAL) • Manchester Metropolitan University • participant observationPhDplacepractice and theory • re-presenting place • research student • researching • Teal Triggs • thesisUniversity of Western Sydneyvisual communication • Yi-Fu Tuan


Simon Perkins

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