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Home arrow Environment arrow Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches
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USING VIDEO FOR CONTINUOUS MONITORING

Even with a fixed coding scheme, an observer in a CM situation has to decide among alternatives when noting behavior—whether someone is acting aggressively, or just engaging in rough play, for example. Recording behavior on film or video lets several analysts study the behavior stream and decide at leisure how to code it. It also makes your data available for coding by others, now and in the future. (Human ethologists, like Irenaus

Eibl-Eiblsfeldt [1989], have amassed hundreds of miles of film and videotape of ordinary people doing ordinary things across the world.)

In the 1970s, Marvin Harris and his students installed videotape cameras in the public rooms of several households in New York City. Families gave their permission, of course, and were guaranteed legal control over the cameras during the study and of the videotapes after the cameras were removed. Teams of observers monitored the equipment from remote locations. Later, the continuous verbal and nonverbal data were coded to study regularities in interpersonal relations in families.

Anna Lou Dehavenon (1978), for example, studied two black and two white families for 3 weeks and coded their nonverbal behavior for such things as compliance with requests and the distribution and consumption of foods in the households. Dehavenon’s data showed that the amount of authoritarianism in the four families correlated perfectly with income differences. The lower the family income, the more superordinate behavior in the home (1978:3).

One would hypothesize, from participant observation alone, that this was the case. But testing this kind of hypothesis requires the sort of quantified data that straightforward, direct observation provides. (See Sharff [1979] and Reiss [1985] for two more studies of households using the Harris videotapes.)

By the 1980s, anthropologists were using video in studies of consumer behavior. Observers at Planmetrics, a marketing research firm, videotaped 70 volunteer parents, for over 200 hours, as the volunteers diapered their babies. The research was done on contract with Kimberly-Clark, manufacturer of ‘‘Huggies,’’ a brand of disposable diapers. The cameras were not hidden, and after a while people just went about their business as usual, according to Steven Barnett, the anthropologist who led the study.

Close observation showed that many parents could not tell whether their babies needed a diaper change, so the researchers recommended that the diapers contain an exterior chemical strip that changed color when the baby was wet. The observers also noticed that parents were powdering their babies’ legs and that parents were treating the red marks left by the diaper gathers as if the marks were diaper rash. The firm recommended that the gathers be redesigned so that there would be no more red marks (Kilman 1985; Lewin 1986). Today, video is used routinely in research on product design and use (Wasson 2000) (box 14.3).

 
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