I recently presented some of my dissertation research at a conference on public ethnography, organized by the folks behind the e.m.a.c. network. The idea behind “public ethnography” is much like that behind “public scholarship.” Namely, that academic work should be useful in the real world, that it should have connections to people’s lives and lived experiences, and that it must be used to improve people’s situations, at least in some small way.
At the conference Dr. Phillip Vannini gave a very interesting talk on how researchers can make their ethnographic work public, thus achieving some of these goals. In his talk he discussed the following tips and strategies:
- For every journal article that you write, produce a magazine article too. Since fieldwork often involves travel, sometimes to unusual destinations, it can be good and translatable material for popular outlets.
- Collaborate with journalists. Give them time, interviews, and material for stories.
- Focus on the local. Emphasize how your work speaks to issues of local importance and relevance.
- Radio is often a more accessible medium than TV, so try doing stories and/or interviews for radio stations.
- If you’re on the web, be sure to cross-link between channels. Don’t just post a blog article — tweet about it, link to your research videos (if you have them) and to other sites that you are present on.
- Look to local media outlets. If you can get your stories picked up by local channels, there’s a chance that they’ll be picked up by larger ones, too.
- Invest in learning about public relations. Publicity doesn’t happen by wishful thinking.
- Carefully consider the audience and the medium for each story and adapt the content accordingly.
For more details on these points, see Phillip’s post “Early reflections on public ethnography” on the e.m.a.c. network website.