Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Contextual Breathing: The Importance of Opening in an Increasingly Closed World


Cite this article:

2018 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, p. 700, ISSN 1559-8918,

PechaKucha Presentation

Context cannot be ignored. The ability to pull back, observe and listen deeply balanced with internal analysis and reflection has significant impact on our individual and societal health. Myopic views that ignore or distort what is happening around us have resulted in a social, cultural and political bipolar effect that occurs within a narrow spectrum of isolation. Extreme swings from close-minded tribes to secluded self dialogue, wreak havoc on our broader needs for transcendence and compassion.

A study of middle-class moms in America, found a pull toward insular communities in unexpected places. Hostile or challenging political arguments were increasingly infiltrating conversations in venues ranging from Facebook to book club. Emotional eruptions in previously “safe spaces” caused retreats to like-minded groups. Women who may have otherwise enjoyed open curiosity or stimulating debate, in these situations, were ill-equipped to handle feelings of rejection and separation. Tribal political behavior was a result of stress and a deep sense of loss.

The rhythmic balance of convergence and divergence is as necessary as breathing, to fairly assess external realities and form rational individual opinions. Ethnography is a prime opportunity to build this context. Revealing non-judgmental stories of those unlike ourselves, we draw back from the myopic focus, which initiates a return to the center with deeper understanding and empathy.

April Jeffries, Global President of Observation at Ipsos, has held progressive leadership positions at Kraft Foods, Campbell’s Soup, and Pinnacle Foods. She has an Engineering degree from MIT, an MBA from Wharton B-School and a Certificate in Multimedia Technology from NYU. She is an award-winning writer, singer and producer of original works in various mediums.