Monday, September 14, 2009

Should you slice or dice your ethnographic film?

This question came up during a new business phone conference today. Let me explain. You have spent 3 days with each of 6 respondents conducting video based participant observation. You had clear objectives. You have even generated your themes (I'm trying to keep this bit simple) and now you want to edit together your findings/insights. Question: Should you edit your films by household? i.e. create a 'best of' for each household with clear signposting so you can walk clients chronologically through the time you spent with each one? Or do you present your insights by theme. Taking the 'best of' from different households and cutting together a thematically navigable presentation.

The answer isn't as obvious as it seems. As a rule, presentations by household are more effective for immersing clients into individual household/respondent realities and priorities. They inspire, earth/reality check and emotionally engage clients. Presenting by theme is more effective for getting a line of reasoning across and leading clients to actions and implications. So what do you do if you need a bit of both?

Above is an example from a piece of work completed for a Media client. We spent 16 days with 4 households and disentangled around 12 themes or headlines from the filming and co-discoveries. We needed to convey our thinking clearly in a set of theme driven films which would include the best of the rest from all of the households. However, we also needed our audience to engage with and understand each individual respondent's life up close and personal. Our solution was to create short household introduction films for each and every respondent and follow these up with the themed presentation. Simple with four respondents. But imagine if you have conducted explorations in 4 markets times 6 respondents in each. Even if each household intro is cut back to 2 minutes, you will still have 48 minutes of introductions to get through before you even get to the steak of your debrief presentation.

What do you do?

Great 'ethnographic' editing.

That's what you do.


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