New book helps researchers reach wider audiences

September 6, 2018
Lisa Weighton
Phillip Vannini

When it comes to contemporary modes of communication, is the pen mightier?

Not always says Prof. Phillip Vannini, Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Public Ethnography.

His new book, Doing Public Ethnography: How to Create and Disseminate Ethnographic ad Qualitative Research to Wide Audiences, is a series of reflections intended to help researchers share their knowledge with a wider audience through diverse media.

“The book is intended for both students and scholars who do qualitative research and find its traditional distribution channels limited,” he says. 

Ethnography and qualitative research methodology have seen a rapid increase of styles and genres in recent years.

“Now ethnographers have the opportunity to disseminate their work not only through traditional writing but also through aural, visual, performative, hypertext, and many diverse and creative multimodal documentation strategies,” Vannini says.

Still, many ethnographers feel ill-equipped to fully embrace into these innovative media.

“Qualitative researchers have great stories to tell and they have realized that when they share their stories with broader audiences outside of academia, people are interested and pay attention.”

Vannini knows from experience. His book Off the Grid, an ethnography about everyday people moving away from contemporary civilization, sold about 1,500 copies. By comparison, his documentary film Life off Grid reached about 15,000,000 people.

“The Balkanization of all fields has resulted in the formation of niche audiences, with the result that whatever we write for colleagues and students hardly ever reaches more than 50 people,” he says.

The book is a series of reflections on the impact of reaching a wider audience and how to do it.

“These are uncensored reflections I've collected over the last 10 years as I’ve tried to get my research out there,” he says. “They include reflections on failures, successes, surprises, blind alleys and lots of practical lessons on what to do and how to do it across written, aural and visual media.”

Doing Public Ethnography was published by Routledge, London as part of its series, Advances in Research Methods.