Ethnography and industry: a reflection on a coming of age

Patrick G. Watson, lecturer in the Sociology department and Social Psychology program at McMaster University, Canada, has recently published a thoughtful review of two business ethnography books:

Advancing Ethnography in Corporate Environments: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities By Jordan, B. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013, 228 pp, $150 (hardcover); $34.95 (paper).

Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector By Ladner, S. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013, 211 pp, $130 (hardcover); $29.95 (paper).

He writes: “It is now fairly commonplace for ethnographic sensibilities to pervade various workplace settings. However, in the expansion, some notions of what ethnography is or sets out to accomplish have been stretched, altered, or misunderstood through the adoption. Left Coast Press has recently published two books that address some of these issues. Ladner (2013) provides a background on industrial ethnography that furnishes insight for two audiences: the experienced academic ethnographer who is interested in corporate ethnography, and; the ethnographer’s audience (contractors, research managers, consultancies, etc.) who are experienced in consumer/industrial research but have little or no experience with Ethnography. Jordan (2013) presents six debates on current issues in corporate ethnographic research, each debate argued by a pair of researchers with experience of industrial ethnographic research. Both go some distance in either perpetuating or addressing the concerns of ethnography as “normal science” in corporate settings.”