Audience Ethnography on TV watching

Audience Ethnography on TV watching

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Interestingly in this technologically evolving world, the social media has dynamically evolved and in return affected the various cultures and behaviors that various classes and origins of people have either positively or negatively. To measure how deep these behaviors have penetrated and affected the people in various localities, an ethnographic research was carried out to effectively outline how various forms of myriads such as mobile phones, laptops, or even broadcasts have affected television watching behaviors in various homes that can access the televisions. This was to see how these extra technological devices have influenced the television watching behavior and who watches what and when do they watch it and if there are notions that certain programs are for certain genders (Gillespie, 1995).

In regards to that, four participants were randomly selected in a foreign country in Africa where their culture is totally different from ours and then an ethnographic study done on them separately in order to get some conclusion on the TV influence in Africa, precisely in Kenya. Ethnography is the new data collection strategy that has really aided many media personalities get data that is conclusive on how the social media has affected the lifestyle of people, how it has led to a hybrid of various cultures, the influences it has on teenagers and young people, the ability to determine the most preferable mode of communication that people prefer or are inclined to as the technological trends keep on advancing (Nanda & Warms, 2015).

Objectives of the Research

This research was done with an objective to understand how different behaviors of television watching have impacted the lives of various people and how their cultures have dynamically changed as a result either positively or negatively. This was to keenly identify how various television watching behaviors have influenced the lives of people in the locality as well as the impact that the advancement in the media technology has impacted on them. I was also interested in determining how interesting these behaviors were and the rate at which they were accepted or rejected in the society.


The methodologies used in the research were fundamentally two and they were observation and participation. My audiences in this case were five different people of different ethnic origin and different age groups but the diversity in their cultures was not very broad. Three of them were observed at a close range in their family setups for a period of four days and their various behaviors when watching television observed as well as their behavior later on in their workplace, school and even social places as they discussed various programs that they had watched or as they chatted with friends in their social platforms. The last two persons were involved in both a participative and observatory method where his conversations were listened to and their behavior changed in a setup that I was involved in (Nanda & Warms, 2015).

In this study various participants had various myriads with which they could receive the television signal as well as other social media networks. The sampling was ideal as technology has globally invaded most of the homes in Africa as the countries develop and so do the people technologically. In this study I was keen and observant on the culture of the participants in order to see how their behaviors would be influenced. The first person was a young African college student by the name Y and she was of Masaai origin an ethnic group in Kenya, the second was a young boy aged eleven and he was of Swahili origin by the name X, the third was a young adult of Luo tribe by the name H and the other two were namely Q and Z and they were both married and of a Kikuyu ethnicity. Among all these participants X, Y, Q, Z and H, their behaviors were observed and recorded accordingly as well as determination of cultural proximity and new technology as key theories and how they have been affected or how they have affected TV watching behavior (Gillespie, 1995).

Motivation to the study

After extensive research and readings on audience ethnology, I got some insight on how I could extend the research on how the various cultures globally have been affected by the new advancement in technology such as TV watching and how behavioral changes have been impacted by the new media social platforms such as facebook, twitter, whatsapp and even local internet. These behaviors helped me determine if various people get the message conveyed to them as they watch TV while they got interrupted by other things and the behavior they got after the influence in the TV watching. Hence the readings on audience ethnology made me as an ethnologist realize that I needed to have more insight in to the issue.

Key Theories to Underpinning my Study

Cultural Proximity

Africa is a culture-oriented continent and so is the rest of the world but considering that they are still in the developing stage in technological advancement in comparison to America, Europe and Asia, the advancement in technology has really eroded their culture hence terming the new culture as a hybrid one. The things that the social media put in the television either affect their culture positively or negatively. For instance, various programs that are European or American based are aired in their televisions hence influencing their behavior to follow another route and as a result affecting their culture and this is what we refer to as westernization through media influence. It was thus ideal to understand how the watching of TV would be influencing these behaviors and how would the cultures be affected (Nanda & Warms, 2015).

Old and New Technologies

We all live in an era where technology advancement is the norm and style of the day. The behavior in which the incorporation of mobile phones, ipads, laptops and even iphones in communication has really revolutionized everything in the media platform and hence in regards the way the social platform has been revolutionized is amazing. These technologies are some of the things that affect the rate at which people watch television in Africa as well as any other part of the world. They have cultivated a new behavior whereby people tend to find themselves multitasking either with their phones, laptops or even ipads in the social media as they watch the TV. On the other hand, TV watching can now be incorporated in a laptop, smart-phone or even online through the internet hence creating a platform for disruption when watching (Gillespie, 1995).


The fact that the world has been turned into a village whereby by a click of a button business transactions are made, communication is effected with someone miles away and so on, this has impacted on cultural stimulation, culture-eradication and even new behavior adoption as everything can be seen in the internet including watching various programs from other countries through the television. Thus globalization is one of the key theories that have explained why behavioral and cultural changes have been influenced through technologies such as TV-watching (Gillespie, 1995).

Case Study

Using my experience and observatory skills as an ethnologist and a student in disguise, I had a chance to observe participant Y in the comfort of her hostel in the college that she went. She lived with a roommate who was a little similar to her. I observed that she had the tendency of sitting on the floor with her smart-phone in her hands as she watched TV whereby she would chat with friends in facebook and twitter while at the same time giving her roommate or any other friend a lot of stories. Then there is this particular soap opera program that she and her friend keenly watch and this time smart-phones are not touched until it is over. Then they would both go and discuss the soap and other things about the programs with girlfriends. I noted that she really dressed like two of the characters in the soap (Brewer, 2000).

Secondly, participant X who was in love with cartoon and he would be very bored when local news were being broadcasted and hence he had a behavior of switching to his laptop for video games and during this time he rarely heard anyone speak to him. Sometimes he would even forget to do his homework. When in school he would engage in black-American slung that he had learned from the ‘Boondocks’ cartoon that he loved so much as well as frequent fights. Then there is participant H who is a middle aged man who loves nothing else in the TV apart from soccer games, news and some property ownership programs. He has a behavior of shouting out loud when watching soccer and keenly listening to the local news while t the same time he is in whatsapp and twitter. He spends most of his day at work talking about the English premier league (Pace & Hinote, 2013).

I stayed at participant’s Q and Z’s home for a week as their guest and I had an interesting time to observe their TV watching behavior. Mostly it all started after work in the evening at six O’clock whereby Z, who is the wife, would start watching an evening soap program that ended at seven. This is a period where she would have a lot of discussions with her daughter about the soap while she browses with her laptop, at the same time she would be preparing food for the family. Then at seven the husband comes home and takes the remote and changes the channels to a local news one, at this particular time they would argue about which news channel to watch and by the time they are through the news is almost over, then the son has a favorite program that he loves, the whole family now ‘fights for the remote-control’ and by the time they are done they basically have watched nothing and it is time to sleep. Everybody in the family has either a laptop or a smart-phone and communication is very small as everyone is busy twitting, surfing or face-booking while watching TV and changing channels (Brewer, 2000).


When it comes to participant Y, it is clear that the social media has really influenced her through watching of soap programs. Basically, most Swahili people in Africa are Muslims and they have a specific dressing code but clearly for participant Y it doesn’t matter, she does not care about her culture anymore and she is seen dressing in imitation to her favorite characters in the soap opera. Hence the two key theories of new technology affecting behavior of people was observed as well as the cultural change or rather erosion influenced by her social media friends plus the programs in the TV. Secondly, when it comes to X, he has evolved negatively in the social platform as he now starts fighting in school and he does not do his homework due to a lot of gaming. Thus the theory of new technology comes in whereby it has influenced his culture of doing his duties and home-works early (Gillespie, 1995).

Participant H on the other hand is committed to his TV watching but he is mostly distracted by his smart-phone as well as the other participants Q and Z. according to the African cultures, families have to eat together and adhere to the leaders of the family while parents are responsible for ensuring that children complete their assignments and other chores in the house. In this case the social media has taken by dividing the whole family in that everybody is concerned about the internet while watching the important things in the TV is no longer of essence. There has been behavioral change whereby the contents of the TV or rather social media are changing our lifestyles and particularly the way we behave by being influenced by what we see or hear. The culture of the Africans or any other culture is being depleted and eroded gradually by external influences from the media platform. This does not mean that the media platform is entirely responsible, the norms that people themselves develop is also responsible such as too much TV watching and internet surfing. On the other hand the internet has promoted globalization and hence better business practices and behaviors have been developed (Brewer, 2000).


After a lot of extensive research, I found that there should be more resources put to see how other theories on audience ethnography affect the behavior of people in their TV watching such as localization and deep research on globalization in the same relation. The idea of pursuing people of different ethnicities and cultures and the way changes in technology such as TV watching has influenced their behavior and changed their culture is very much recommendable (Pace & Hinote, 2013).


Pace, R., & Hinote, B. P. (2013). Amazon town TV: An audience ethnography in Gurupá, Brazil. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Nanda, S., & Warms, R. L. (2015). Culture counts: A concise introduction to cultural anthropology.

Brewer, J. D. (2000). Ethnography. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Gillespie, M. (1995). Television, ethnicity, and cultural change. London: Routledge.

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