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Ethnography: Media, Technology, Social Movements Essay (Critical Writing)


This work discusses various aspects of ethnography. Notably, it looks at the relationship between fashion and culture, body modification and identity, and the influence of contemporary media on message delivery. The paper goes further to discuss the influence of mobile phones on ethnographic blending and the impact of social movement on social transformation.

Many people consider fashion as a means of demonstrating ethnonationalism. Persons belonging to different nations and cultures are always thought to dress in ways that make it easy for other people to identify them. Someone may wonder why the background affects the dress code. Arkin responds to this dilemma by insisting that people dress in a particular manner as a way of showing their love for their nation or community (723). However, national fashions cause prejudices between people of different origins or even of the same origin. Why should there be prejudices? Prejudices arise due to national hegemony: citizens of some nations feel superior to those from other nations. Some people also feel offended whenever their countrymen “betray” their national fashion.

Apart from fashion and ethnonationalism, many people in the US have embraced a culture of tattooing and piercing their bodies as a way of identifying with modernism. This culture gives many of them a sense of fulfillment. One may wonder whether this trend only affects certain social groups. On the contrary, this culture transgresses every social boundary (Sweetman 173). What aspect of tattooing and piercing do individuals like? According to Sweetman, individuals who tattoo or pierce their bodies are not interested in a single part of the process. Their interest is in the entire process (168). The pain they go through during the tattooing and piercing processes is very significant to them just as the finished product.

The other ethnographic practice worth studying is the switching and preference of media during breakups. It is, usually, very difficult to communicate and understand breakup messages. This situation has worsened in modern times. Why is it difficult to communicate and understand breakup messages? Gershon answers this question by arguing that people understand certain messages when specific media are used for communicating the messages (390). Such people fail to understand the same messages when senders use different types of media. If this is the case, why is the situation more complicated in modern days than it was in the past? The reason for the complication in the communication of breakup messages today is an increase in the number of media. In the past, people never had the opportunity to love some media more than others. On the other hand, people may have or lack mutual intelligibility depending on their media preferences today. Therefore, break up messages end up being disregarded for using media that the recipients do not prefer.

It is also worth noting that modern technologies, such as mobile phones, also have ethnographic values for different groups of people. Many people may wonder how this could be possible. Mobile phones are products of modernism, which makes many people view them as agents of ethnographic destruction. On the contrary, mobile phones serve as a means of demonstrating loyalty to people’s cultures while at the same time demonstrating adoption to modernity. In other words, mobile phones can help blend tradition and modernism. McIntosh describes this situation using Giriama text messages, which use code-switching, English short forms, and vernacular in demonstrating the blending of tradition and modernity (McIntosh 341).

Having already stated that modern media have been increasing in number as time passes, one may wonder whether ancient ways of communication such as social movements are still useful. However, looking at recent occurrences in the world reveals that demonstrations are still valid. A suitable example of instances when demonstrations have been successful is the Occupy Wall Street protest. Citizens complained about corruption, economic inequality, and greed among bankers (Krugman par. 6). They prolonged it until the media gave them attention.

This paper has discussed fashion, tattooing and piercing, technology, social movements, and their ethnographic influences. All of them have profound impacts on society.

Works Cited

Arkin, Kimberly. “Rhinestone Aesthetics and Religious Essence: Looking Jewish in Paris.” American Ethnologist 36.4 (2009): 722-734. Print.

Gershon, Illana. “Breaking up is Hard to Do: Media Switching and Media Ideologies.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 20.2 (2010): 389-405. Print.

Krugman, Paul. “Confronting Malefactors.” New York Times 6 Oct. 2011: n. pag. Print.

McIntosh, Janet. “Mobile Phones and Mipoho’s Prophecy: The Powers and Dangers of Flying Language.” American Ethnologist 37.2 (2010): 337-353. Print.

Sweetman, Paul. “Only Skin Deep? Tattooing, Piercing and the Transgressive Body.” The Body’s Perilous Pleasures: Dangerous Desires and Contemporary Culture. Ed. Michael Aaron. Edinburg: Edinburg University Press, 1999. 165-183. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "Ethnography: Media, Technology, Social Movements." June 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ethnography-media-technology-social-movements/.


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IvyPanda. "Ethnography: Media, Technology, Social Movements." June 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ethnography-media-technology-social-movements/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Ethnography: Media, Technology, Social Movements." June 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ethnography-media-technology-social-movements/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Ethnography: Media, Technology, Social Movements'. 27 June.

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