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Edited by Russell W. Belk
Chapter 21: Writing Pictures/Taking Fieldnotes: Towards a More Visual and Material Ethnographic Consumer Research
21 Writing pictures/taking ﬁeldnotes: towards a more visual and material ethnographic consumer research Lisa Peñaloza and Julien Cayla Introduction Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things. (Georgia O’Keeﬀe) Ethnographic methods are especially well suited to capturing and analyzing consumption behavior. From the multisensorial consumption Mecca of Mall of America (Csaba, 1999) to passengers traveling in Parisian subway trains (Floch, 1989), shoppers strolling in a farmer’s market (Heisley et al., 1991b) or tourists wandering through the streets of an unfamiliar town (Ladwein, 2002a), ethnographic studies of visual images and material artifacts allow us to draw meanings from the experiential and kinesthetic aspects of consumption: people moving their bodies through consumption spaces, interacting with artifacts in those spaces and forging their identities and social worlds. They help us go beyond talk and text about what consumers do to provide a more holistic account of consumption behavior. We focus here on two ethnographic methods, recording and analyzing ﬁeld observations in ﬁeldnotes and photography. The writing of ﬁeldnotes is a standard activity in ethnography. The researcher enters a social setting, participates in the daily routines of that setting and regularly writes down what s/he observes and learns. Virtually every anthropologist uses ﬁeldnotes to record their observations, insights and analysis. They try to get close to the people they are studying and describe their ways of life in detail. Geertz (1973) talks of...
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