BCM241 class of 2019, we are an odd bunch.
We all, it seems, are very particular about our cinema tastes. We have a favourite seat. A favourite snack. And a devotion to whatever it is we’re watching.
We hate talkers. We’re afraid to crunch on food out loud. And we have no qualms with getting up and leaving mid-movie should the situation call for it.
After a closer ethnographic examination of our cinema rituals through participant observation, we now also are more aware of how Torsten Hagerstrand’s (1969) constraints of coupling, capability, and authority unconsciously impact our cinematic experiences.
When Mikayla Stott of Generally Unimpressed tried to see ‘The Lion King’, her experience was ruined by unexpected capability problems, culminating in her taking early leave of the movie.
It took Taylah Ide-Miller of TayTay’s Blog three attempts to have an ideal experience when she tried to see the much-anticipated ‘Avengers Endgame’ movie. Mostly thanks to a series of authority and capability issues.
Such deep understandings would not be possible had these researchers not observed these experiences from the inside-out through participation.
This immersive approach distinguishes itself from anthropology in accordance with Erik Lassiter’s reflections in his article ‘A Brief Guide to Collaborative Ethnography’ (2005).
He notes that ethnography avoids the harmful phenomenon of ‘othering’; of portraying the observed culture as separate, merely a shallow curiosity. When applied to the ethnography of the cinema, this form of research places ourselves in the context of viewer/experiencer-culture and our understandings are enriched.
I hope to use these insights about the power of participant observation in my capstone research project.
One of my ideas revolves around the retail space; how different the discourse surrounding retail employment is between ‘real-life’ and online spheres, such as the subreddit titled ‘Retail Hell’.
Another concept I believe will be interesting is the interaction between the built environment and the digital world; how one prompts action in another and vice versa.
Whatever I choose to explore, I know that I must dive deep into the experience because adventure awaits.