Television Audiences and Ethnography

Over the past week, I have read many blog posts that explore people’s personal experiences with television in the home. My motivation for doing so is partially related to the ethnographic research component of my latest university assignment and partially inspired by my curiosities surrounding the history of television. During my research, I was fortunate to discover some interesting posts that detail people’s fondest memories of times spent watching television.

The first post I discovered offers a fascinating insight into early television consumption habits in Australia. The subject, a 91-year-old woman, offers a detailed personal recollection of her experiences as the new medium of television entered her life as a young woman. The woman has been alive to witness all of Australia’s historic television moments, including the launch of public television in 1956, the 1969 moon landing, and the introduction of colour television across across Australia in 1975, yet those iconic TV moments are not recalled, instead the woman shares her memories of watching television with her family . The post offers various quotes and anecdotes that demonstrate the woman’s association with television as an enabler of memorable family interactions and highlight the role that television plays in shaping family interaction patterns.

The second post I read also included an interview where the subject describes her memories of watching television with her family. “She recalled fondly sitting with her siblings some days after school when they weren’t sent outside to play and watching television till their dad got home and then choosing what to watch became his decision from then onwards,” the subject said. As was the case in the first blog post, the subject here describes her most memorable television experiences as being those that are coupled with family interactions. The theme of family being present in both of these blog posts suggests that people possess strong memories of television when the medium is coupled with family interactions.

The use of ethnography to conduct media audience research about people’s television memories in this instance has enabled me to uncover the reoccurring theme of television and family interactions. Employing ethnographic research methods enabled the subjects to open up and expand on their memories to include details about watching television with their families. This opened the topic to areas that may not have been initially considered by the researcher, thus providing a more detailed picture of television consumption habits than if the researchers had used the quantitative research method of recording ranks and counts to analyze feelings and behaviors. The one identified weakness of using ethnography in these instances was that the time-consuming nature of qualitative research restricted the number of people the researcher could study to just one. This weakness was easily overcome because I was able to find numerous examples of ethnographic media research to compare against the first blog post I read. As I study television more I will endeavor to better understand the correlation between television memories and family interactions.


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