The ethnographer’s toolkit

Read how the Central team prepared to research the complex sustainable fishing industry using design ethnography.

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Ethnography is a field of cultural anthropology where researchers go into the field and spend time with participants in their natural environments to study what people actually do.

As it applies to design, ethnography has become an increasingly useful way to gain insights and inspiration for innovation. The Central team used design ethnography to study hundreds of people along the fishing industry’s supply chain whose habits and work culture we thought could help us shape our thinking.

Of course, much preparation is required before sending researchers into the field. We spent several months strategizing, taking the time to recruit particular field sites and participants to shadow and observe.

We’ve gathered some of that information in a brief document which outlines some of our initial preparation. We also thought it might help others who are interested in understanding — and perhaps employing — design ethnography for their own use.