EOC defined

Theoretical overview

S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G.: A research tool

Applying S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G.

Sample study

Conducting your own study

Check your understanding

Sources for this Web site

Additional readings



Ethnography of Communication Defined

The project of ethnography of communication has been contributed to from people in fields ranging from anthropology and sociology to linguistics and American studies. Departments of Communication or Speech Communication have been instrumental in the field's development.

Considering the field of communication broadly, it would be difficult to characterize Ethnography of Communication along the lines of audience size (e.g. from intra/interpersonal to mass communication). For within the area of ethnography of communication, there are researchers who examine personal relationships as well as researchers who examine the ways television presents culturally patterned practices, and everything in between.

Another common way of characterizing areas within the field communication is topically, such as health or organizational communication. However, ethnography of communication researchers may be working in any applied setting. As long as there people communicating, ethnographers of communication may be there.

Within Communication Departments, researchers who study from the perspective of the ethnography of communication do so usually with reference to a special sub-disciplinary interest, such as Intercultural or Cultural Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Organizational Communication or by positioning the work as within a framework of Language as Social Interaction. However one is labeled or describes one's work, the commitments are shared. That is, communication should be examined as a social and cultural practice and recognition should be given to the ways that the participants themselves describe and use communication.

The kinds of things we study include:

  • Place (how people relate to their physical surroundings and the meaning of places)
  • Naming (how people name others and objects and the significance of naming as such)
  • Silence (the use of silence in conversations: when it is appropriate, who uses it and what it implies)
  • Time (how persons orient to activities and others)
  • Identity and self presentation (who I am and how I present myself to others)
  • Personhood and Membership (who counts as a person and in what ways)
  • Face (how I present myself to others positively or negatively and maintain autonomy)
  • Voice (who is heard and is able to speak)
  • Relationships (how people interact with one another and form close ties)

We have studied all over the world.  Examples include:

  • Finland
  • Russia
  • Iceland
  • Columbia
  • Israel
  • All over the United States

<Previous Page | Next Page>