Using ethnography to understand everyday media practices in Australian family life

Document Type

Book Chapter




Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communication and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Australian Research Council

Grant Number

ARC Number : DP110100864


Holloway, D. J., & Green, L. R. (2013). Using ethnography to understand everyday media practices in Australian family life. In Valdivia, A.N. (Gen. Ed.) & Parameswaran, R. (Ed.) (Eds.). The international encyclopedia of media studies, Vol. 4: Audience and interpretation (pp. 1-22). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Original book available here


This chapter discusses the use of ethnography within a media and cultural studies framework to investigate media practices within Australian families. It begins by outlining the theory and practice informing audience ethnography research, and then it provides an overview of audience studies research in Australia over the past quarter-century. The chapter then draws specifically upon the authors’ audience ethnographies, to illuminate how complex behaviors such as those associated with media consumption are best investigated from a suite of different perspectives: participant observation, interview, field notes, and an engagement with a number of informants within each household. The production of cultural value through engagement with such media as the television and the Internet crosses the boundary between the household and the wider world and requires self-reflection and analysis on the part of interviewees. In addition to this, media practices within the family are both an indication of and a constituent influence upon the family’s social and cultural norms. Issues about “who lets whom use what and when” are major sites of negotiation for autonomy and independence as children mature within the family context. Thus, by studying media audiences via ethnography, researchers are offered a privileged insight into people’s everyday lives.