How would you define this big idea?
Ethnography is the practice of structured observation and interpretation of culture and society. This usually occurs through two stages: fieldwork and writing. The roots of ethnography are in anthropology, though as a method ethnography is now used across multiple social science as well as being common in management and technology studies, and as a technique used in product development. Ethnography is usually written, though there are strong traditions of the use of media in ethnography. There is also a strong tradition of “socially engaged” ethnographic work.
How is this big idea applied to sustainable communities?
The value of design thinking to sustainable communities is that it provides a method for understanding cultures and social interactions. This can be valuable research on its own, for instance providing interpretations of how a given community uses mobile phones or their attitudes towards food. It can also inform design work. Finally, drawing on existing ethnographic work can help communicate the characteristics of a given issue, such as gender norms in rural southern communities or systems of power and influence in environmental policy.
Article by anthropologist Kim Fortun on practicing ethnography with a social-environmentla justice perspective