V for Ethnography

While I have put forward that we utilised a micro-ethnographic approach which is true to certain extent (albeit we were unaware at the time) we also went further and engaged with a sub section of ethnography which has seen a recent growth in acceptance; this being forms of Visual Ethnography.

Once popular in sociological research in the early 20th century began slowly tapered away and yet has seen a revival at the start of the 21st century. Visual ethnography is often used as a form of photo-elicitation where in participants are showed images in an attempt to elicit a response to be recorded or help “spring board” discussions. “By working with informants to produce images that are meaningful for them we can gain insights … into what is important for them as individuals living in particular localities” (Bryman 2012:457). While it was considered it use such a method of interviewing it was ultimately decided against; given the language barrier and the possibility of collecting a size of usable interviews.

What we did decide to use was photographic evidence to accompany Ethnographic field notes; the use of visual ethnography in this regard was most applicable. Incorporating images to support the observations and suggested hypothesis was put to great effect when reviewing our field notes retrospectively this has been referred to as an aide-mémoire. Practically all of the images where dated and were accompanied by a brief description allowing for a relatively accurate placement of the image within the field notes in relation to context, time and location.

Furthermore given high quality of the images and sheer volume collected by the photographer and the field research team along with accompanying audio recordings; it is possible that while still accompanying our noted observations they also become part of our analyses beyond their current supporting role. Peñaloza suggests that her “visual ethnographic study of Nike town in Chicago” (Bryman 2012:460) was well suited to using a similar use of photography with a specific reference to key aspects of project, “particularly its architecture, furnishings, displays of artifacts, images , sounds and textures in relation to consumers’ behaviours” (Bryman 2012:460). While our project does not directly concern it’s self with corporation to consumer power relations the areas of interests are similar given our approach to exploring the habitus and hexis of a different culture.

While this further supports our ethnographic work thus far it should be noted that visual ethnography traditional was used from a realist’s approach where the image “becomes a ‘fact’ for the ethnographer … and acts as a window on reality” (Bryman 2012:458). Our adopted reflective approach is close linked with our social-constructivism stance “the visual is frequently collaborative [and more importantly] there is a recognition of the fluidity of meanings of images, implying they can never be fixed and will always be viewed by different people in different ways” (Bryman 2012:458). Our project rejects any realist stand point suggesting that there are any tangible truths and in fact work under the presumed understanding “that reality is a ‘fragile social construction subject to lines of sight and interpretation’” (Bryman 2012:263). We are currently analysing our visual-ethnography within the context of our observational data simultaneously attempting to draw conclusion and remain aware that these ‘conclusions’ may be true with given context. This approach could be considered part “Post-structural Tale” (Bryman 2012:463) by Van Maanen and part “Postmodern Ethnography” (Bryman 2012:464) by Adler and Adler: first by our stated ontological and epistemological stances, it will also always be hard when conducting micro-ethnography not to personalise your work given the scale of the project, this is always intended as a preliminary project designed to reflex and improve upon what has been done and finally the attachments to this project are largely reflective in nature (Bryman 2012:455-465).

What should be raised are the ethical implications of using visual data containing images of individuals without their consent. The possibility of photographing individuals clear enough to be recognisable was possibility, this was raised in the Low Risk Ethical Check List and in this ethical analysis of this check list, which can be found on the blog.

The project was given the go ahead due to the fact that to obtain the required permission we have to break our covert observation as ‘Tourists’; then communication could be difficult at best, furthermore it could negatively affect our surroundings proving false visual data, ultimately a logistical nightmare. Our redeeming steps however to limit any possible damage (if any) encounter by an invasion of privacy were that the proposed risk was no more prevalent if this were to be carried out around our University campus allowing for the green light on this project. Finally as stated in a slight different manner for a slightly different ethical concern, we are constantly putting our work and subsequent ‘conclusions’ within context and as suggestions no matter whether they are favourable or not.

With this in mind efforts to continue to minimise risk are still on going.



Beach, D. (1996) The Responsible Conduct of Research. Cambridge: VCH

Bryman, A. (2012) Social Research Methods. 4nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Bryman, A. (2004) Social Research Methods. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press

During, S. (ed.) (2007) The Cultural Studies Reader. 3rd edn. Oxon: Routledge

Priest, H. S. (1996) Doing Media Research: An Introduction. London: Sage Publications


“some dissimulation is intrinsic to social life and, therefore to field work” – Ethical Ethnography

Anthropology and ethnography have always had to deal with ethical constraints just like any other research method in practice and just like any other method, ethical considerations have had to evolve with the emerging possibilities technology can offer. Originally “anthropologists’ descriptions were often of isolated groups with no written language and no access to today’s mass media” (Priest 1996:28) considering our selected culture of study, the capabilities of technology and the average user, this is not a luxury we have.

Our blog and accompanying forms of social network dissemination while remain constantly professional are most certainly public; meaning that it is possible that an individual or institution relating to our project which may be a part of our project (i.e. distinguishable through a description of appearance, personality and/or actions). Given that we adopted a covert-participant role it is possible these individual(s) or institutions may recognise themselves as part of our study may not appreciate our stance, opinions, conclusions, extrapolation or generalisations of their culture nor the part we suggest they have played a part in its construction or purpose.

Furthermore individual(s) or institutions which have not been considered may feel implicated in our conclusions this neglection as well as the previous scenario and similar variations can result in undesired media attention and/or legal action. Of course these are extremely pessimistic outcomes: given the scale and predicted reach of our project, this being actively engaging colleagues and professional peers within relevant field meaning that any possible damage would be minimal if any.

Low Risk Ethical Checklist Questions 15 and 16

Of course further steps can and have been taken to ensure that the benefits exceed any possible risk. The first step was to conducted a Low Risk Research Ethics Approval Check to ensure that “The benefit expected must exceed the expected harms” (Beach 1996:19) and that steps would be put in place to see it through. Also referring back to a point already made, our work is monitored (constantly in fact) by our colleagues and professional peers. This adds another layer to the iterative nature of the project (discussed in a previous posting), which allows for constant reflection and constructive criticism. One could argue that to a certain degree this project “self checks” through the transparent nature of the documentation process.

While the iterative process, open source documentation of our research, peer review and its status as a micro-ethnographic study well aware of its reach and limitations all go along way at every stage in minimising any potential harm. This in accordance with any officially recognised intuitions monitoring ethical research, “social research should try to minimize disturbance both to subjects themselves and to the subjects’ relationships with their environment” (Bryman 2004:510). Sadly ethics in ethnography is a tricky dance between contradicting stances and practices, while a dance may be an apt metaphor; a minefield wouldn’t be far off either.

Bryman states that there are four areas by which ethical principles can be broken down to “[1] whether there is harm to participants [2] whether there is a lack of informed consent [3] whether there is an invasion of privacy [4] whether deception is involved” (Bryman 2004:509).  This project entailed a certain amount of covert participant observation. However such a method is in contrast with the principle of informed consent because “research participants should be given as much information as might be needed to make an informed decision” (Bryman 2004:511), covert participant observation “transgresses that principle … [participants] are involved whether they like it or not” (Bryman 2004:511).

Low Risk Ethical Checklist Questions 24 and 31

This principle in particular is often considered impractical within an ethnographic study; this was certainly true of our field research. To inform every individual we observed and gain the informed consent necessary to satisfy a Universalism approach would be near to impossible whether attempted on or not. Our methods of data collection where this: Visual documentation via digital photography and observation notes, audio recorded of ambient sound, informal semi-structured interviews (fully informed consent given) recorded in an audio/visual medium. In the case of the interviews as mentioned, fully informed consent was given solving any possible problems regarding possible harm, lack of informed consent, invasion of privacy or deception.

The main problems came from the covert observations wherein we were “disguised” as tourists (an easy disguise) of course this was partly true, what differentiated our research team from that of a tourist was our approach and to what ends our data would be used. The photography and audio recordings of street crowd sounds, Bilbao fans in the bar and outside the stadium before and after the Athletic Club Vs. Espanyol game were never directed towards any individual; While not impossible for an individual or group (besides that of Athletic Club fans as a group) to identify themselves or others, this is a possible outcome but could be considered statistically safe given the reach of the project.

In legal terms any forms of copy righted material which may or may not have been used will fall under the Fair use and Academic Fair Use sections of Copyright law; furthermore all of the previously mention work has been appropriately referenced and in accordance Coventry Universities policies.

What has been stated above regarding deception, invasion of privacy, potential harm and informed consent (or lack thereof?) presents ethical, moral and legal issues which will always be present when conducting any form of ethnographic research information in one form or another and are almost unavoidable. Information is always held back from participants in varying degrees to avoid contamination of data, because it is deemed necessary, because there is no other way ect . Our ethical stance could be considered situational in our approach, we propose that “The end justifies the means … unless there is some breaking of ethical rules we would never know about certain social phenomena” this would suggest that in a given situations this could “argue that deception was justified”. As mentioned nearly all “research involves elements that are at least ethically questionable” in our case this came from our covert participant observations by not stating we were anything more than tourists. This information was deliberately held back to avoid instance where the unknowing participants may “try to hide actions and attitudes they consider undesirable, and so will be dishonest” (Bryman 2012:130 -135).

So while it appears no one wishes to say that deception, lack of informed consent, possible harm to participants or invasion privacy are ethically sound it is heavily hinted at by many researchers and within in the context of this project we feel the ends do justify means. The projects scope, limitations and crucially our understanding of its limitations are ultimately its saving grace. The benefits outweigh the risks because the project while far from being unimportant is small, its reach is limited this is based on number of blog/Facebook views and comments as well as the predicted number of those who will see the finished project. Any conclusions/ generalisation or in the case of an inductive/iterative preliminary study a proposed hypothesis will be kept within the context and bounds of the research. Within this project we have subsumed the potential benefits of a much larger project and drastically limited risk to both participant and researcher.

Low Risk Ethical Checklist Questions 26 and 27

Of course other issues raised in our Low Risk Ethical Checklist have much simpler solutions, in fact some come back to correct professional practice something which we have been improving for 3 years as well as again by devising appropriate methods “Research should be designed, reviewed and undertaken to ensure integrity, quality and transparency” (Bryman 2012:144). The issues is remedied by our actively engaging colleagues, scholarly professional in the field of research methods and peer review constantly confirming our methods.

What is clear this analysis of ethical research is that there is a healthy dose of irony, that one “must be dishonest to get honest data” (Bryman 2012:134)



Beach, D. (1996) The Responsible Conduct of Research. Cambridge: VCH

Bertrand, I. and Hughes, P. (2005) Media Research Methods: Audiences, Insitutions, Texts. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillsn

Bryman, A. (2012) Social Research Methods. 4nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Bryman, A. (2004) Social Research Methods. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Coppyright Witness Ltd. (2011)
Copyright Law Fact Sheet P-09 : Understanding Fair use
[online] available from <http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p09_fair_use> [10/19 2011]

During, S. (ed.) (2007) The Cultural Studies Reader. 3rd edn. Oxon: Routledge

Huff, S. A. (2009) Designing Research for Publication. London: SAGE Publications

Priest, H. S. (1996) Doing Media Research: An Introduction. London: Sage Publications

Brief Literary Review of ‘Nationalism at Play: The Basques of Vizcaya and Athletic Club de Bilbao’ by Jeremy MacClancy

By Leon Emirali

When researching the cruxes of how Basque culture has come to present such a fierce show of nationalism I came across a largely insightful piece by Jeremy McClancy found in Sport, Identity and Ethnicity (please find full reference at end of article).

McClancy gives insight in this particular chapter, about how Athletic Bilbao has managed to strike such a chord with the Basque people. He comments that ‘They wish to create a culture broad and supple enough to include both bereted farmers and urban skinheads’ (McClancy – 1988) when analysing ETA’s political ideology over the years. He ellaborates further and comments that ‘a culture is not a static entity but a continuing construction of it’s members’ (McClancy – 1988). A personal interpretation on this comment is to suggest that the issue of Basque identity is something that has encaptulated the masses and held their attention over a sustained period of time. Whereas the neo-liberalist hegemony that has swept the Western political system and arguably led to a lessened sense of national identity, due to relaxed laws regarding movement of labor and person.

However, Basque country has kept a national identity through their evolving culture which has manifested itself through several outlets such as art, ideology and of course sport; leading to a hightended desire for the differences in their culture to be recognised by ‘outsiders’ most notably mainland Spain as well as presevering a rich culture and society as well as developing it.

The history of the club, as with many European teams stems from a British introduction, with workers from the UK working in the coal-mining and sailing industries would often play football with their Basque counterparts, with the first recognised fixture for Athletic Bilbao coming against a British XI, which was won comprehensively by the visiting Brits, 6-0. However, with only 7 years separating their first fixture Athletic Bilbao later gained much recognition after winning the first ever Championship of Spain in 1901 in Madrid. (McClancy – 1996).

However, desptite the successes of the team both past and present; the focus of our studies is on the support gained not for the sporting aspects of the club but indeed the deeper running ties that bind the club and fans. The club isn’t a limited company like all other clubs in Spain, aside from Barcelona and Real Madrid but is instead jointly owned by it’s members (socios) which in 1988 made up roughly 32,000.

Instead of having one wealthy individual ploghing money into the club, funds can only be raised through raising membership costs. Perhaps at a normal club this would grieve fans who part with hard-earned money to support a club, but McClancy argues that fans of Bilbao prefer it this way giving them a greater sense of ownership and thus identity.

This chapter has given us a greater insight into the in’s and out’s of the club as well as providing insight and comparison with other clubs from around the world which we are looking to explore in the coming weeks.


McClancy, J. (1996). Sport, Identity and Ethnicity. London. Berg

Epistemological, Ontological and Methodological Considerations (currently)

Research Question/Hypothesis/Approach

How far does Athletic Bilbao reflect the social/economic/political fields of habitus of Bilbao/ Basque Country and its people?

While none of this was directly considered before or during our primary micro-ethnographic study, our approach was similar to an inductive stance. We have and continue to conduct secondary research into the back ground of Basque culture and how it relates to football in their country in particular that of the City of Bilbao and Athletic Club Bilbao. The research consisted of finding documented events and instances which could be interpreted to shed light upon a culture we knew nothing about.

Given that our initial approach involved extensive interpretation of situations, events, anecdotes ect. Then this resembles an inductive stance where “the process of induction involves drawing generalizable inferences out of observations” (Bryman 2004:9) and “involves reasoning from a specific case to a general theoretical conclusion” (Priest 1996:9) this is also true of the micro-ethnographic study performed in Bilbao. From both our primary and secondary research (still ongoing) we hope to come to a theoretical consensus in relation to our hypothesis or in other words our final “theory is the outcome of research” (Bryman 2004:9) this would be the defining differences between our inductive approach and any possible deductive approaches which would attempt substantiate a theory with evidence.

To keep it simple:

“Figure 1.2 Deductive and inductive approaches to the relationship between theory and research” (Bryman 2004:10).

“Figure 1.2 Deductive and inductive approaches to the relationship between theory and research” (Bryman 2004:10).

While evidence certainly points our project in the direction of inductive logic after all the data collected so far is primarily qualitative which another indicator suggesting an inductive approach. However it is well known that these distinctions are not as simple as they have made to sound, as each stance contains modicum of the opposite approach “most of today’s social science research combines elements of induction and deduction” (Priest 1996:9).

What this leads us to is the possibility that while there has been a heavy inductive approach our study is utilising an iterative stance through a analytic induction or grounded theory strategy. This entails I constant “interplay between the collection and analysis of data” (Bryman 2004:399). It is currently unclear as to which strategy is being implemented as it shares its initial beginnings with that of analytic induction and constant parallel exploration of and comparison with that of grounded theory. Given the constant struggle to define the project as either inductive or deductive, grounded theory or analytic induction it becomes more and more apparent that our methodology will be mixed methodology attempting to utilise the best of both worlds.

This is supported due to the fact that our current Research Question/Hypothesis/Approach contains elements that may need to answer separately such as “how far does”. This suggests the necessity for quantitative analysis enabling a determination of distance or “provide[ing] the basis for more precise estimates of the degree of relationships between concepts” (Bryman 2004:66) something which qualitative research often neglects “for most qualitative researchers, developing measurements of concepts will not be a significant consideration” (Bryman 2004:271). However a qualitative approach is also needed given the area of social phenomena we wish to explore, something that qualitative methods are most suited for.

While this mixed methodology has potential, it also has the potential to become overly complex for the job at hand I hope that using an Interpretivism-Constructivist because stands by that “social reality – has a meaning for human beings and therefore human action is meaningful” (Bryman 2004:14) and the Constructivist stance where “social phenomena are not only produced through social interaction but that they are in constant state of revision” (Bryman 2004:17). Supporting the decision to the use of a mixed methodology and possible enable our project to keep a focus upon understanding of a culture with the quantification of how it representation as secondary given that “Nationality, or as one might prefer nation-ness, as well as nationalism are cultural artefacts of a particular kind” (During 2008:255)




Bertrand, I. and Hughes, P. (2005) Media Research Methods: Audiences, Insitutions, Texts. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillsn

Bryman, A. (2004) Social Research Methods. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press

During, S. (ed.) (2007) The Cultural Studies Reader. 3rd edn. Oxon: Routledge

Huff, S. A. (2009) Designing Research for Publication. London: SAGE Publications

Priest, H. S. (1996) Doing Media Research: An Introduction. London: Sage Publications

“Go get the seats of your pants dirty …

… in real research” (McNeill 1985:69)

McNeill states that “Ethnography means simply writing about a way of life” (McNeill 1985:64), from what has been discussed so far in this project ‘Football culture of Bilbao’ it is clear that while not entirely planned/plotted out it will take on numerous characteristics and approaches of an ethnographic study of the habitus, hexis and all things in-between of Bilbao. While it is noted that ethnography is well suited in describing cultures and the style of which is the norm it does not necessarily attempt to understand the why, the cause behind the culture.

With this in mind we will be attempting to document as much as possible, anything that could appear to be a ‘clue’ or ‘evidence’ should be documented or written about, this will take the form of noted observations, audio/visual recordings still and moving as well as conversations with individuals to provide loosely structure or un-structured interviews. These examples fall into participatory observation.

Ethnography is of course limited in numerous ways as mention we can document as much as we like but all is based around our own authority of the experience which given the scale of the project and the proposed time within the culture being no more than 5 days this would be difficult. Whatever data is obtained from this qualitative research would be useless without analysis and context. This can come from the “analysis of documents” something which is in no way finished but most defiantly started in an effort to support our proposed field research as “One of the basic draw backs – the impossibility of ever checking on the findings of such research by exactly repeating it” (McNeill 1985:68).

For all its pro and cons many of which have been skipped over here, because it is a blog post and not quite my essay Ethnographic participant observation allow “researchers to peep behind the formal aspects of organizational settings [revealing a] rich … deliberately concealed under life” (Bryman 1989:142).



Bryman, A. (1989) Research Methods and Organization Studies. New York: Routledge

McNeill, P. (1985) Research Methods. London: Routledge

The Weather of Bilbao

As the city of Bilbao is situated near the northern coasts of Spain, it is subject to oceanic climates. Rain is common all year round and the area is considered to be one of wettest in all of spain. Rainy days represent 45% and cloudy days 40% of the annual total. The most rainy season is between October and April, November being the wettest. Snow is not frequent in the city, however, sleet is more likely with around 10 days per year mainly occuring in the winter months.

Summer and Winter both remain mild, averaging maximum temperatures of between 25 °C (77.0 °F) and 26 °C (78.8 °F) in the summer months, and in winter between 6 °C (42.8 °F) and 7 °C (44.6 °F).

Extreme record observations in Bilbao are 42.2 °C (108.0 °F) maximum (on 13 August 2003) and −8.6 °C (16.5 °F) minimum (on 3 February 1963). The maximum precipitation in a day was 225.6 mm (9 in) in 26 August 1983 when severe flooding was originated by the Nervión river.

In Autumn and winter, Galicia can receive up to twice as much rain as the national monthly averages, which can mean up to 148 mm of rain in one month.

Does this weather have an effect on the people of Bilbao? Does it alter their mood? Looking at the statistics, it is not too dis-similar from the weather in England, all beit with slightly better summer temperatures!