MAASTRICHT, January 2020—Many omelettes later, we are happy to share our article on methods in team ethnography: ‘How to Make an Omelette: A Sensory Experiment in Team Ethnography’. It has been published as open access in Qualitative Research: https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794119890543.
Sensory ethnographers deploy methods such as drawing, video and photography in order to examine the more ineffable and non-representational aspects of practices. Usually, these studies are conducted by individual researchers who deal only with their own material. What happens when a team of ethnographers explores questions of a sensory or non-representational nature? How do they share their findings not only with their audiences, but also with each other? Team ethnography is becoming increasingly common across the social sciences and humanities, yet to date there has been little attention paid to the important work of communicating findings within a group. To explore this further, we conducted a methodological ‘proof of concept’ study, observing and documenting people learning to make omelettes. We found that sensory methods have a role not only in studying practices but crucially, in also facilitating a form of immersion into the ethnographic practices and imaginations of others within the team. In the end, we suggest that experiments with sensory methods, such as through proof of concept methodological studies, are useful for thinking about how teams of social scientists work together, whether their research deals with sensory topics or not.
This paper was greatly inspired by the probing questions and observations of Kristen Haring, who spent time with our research group during the running of the omelette experiments. We are also indebted to our colleagues (many of whom are part of the Maastricht University ethnography group), family and friends who participated in the experiments and for their wonderful comments on the methodologies throughout. We were able to conduct two days of experiments in a dedicated kitchen laboratory thanks to the generosity of the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University. Thomas Fuller and Ido Holkamp kindly helped out with cooking lessons and catering. We were able to repeat the experiment at Marres House for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht, several times and thank Ilse van Lieshout, Valentijn Byvanck and the medical students who participated for thinking along with us. Rachel also re-enacted the experiment as part of a #collexx conference in Lisbon. The Maastricht University STS research group offered insightful feedback on an earlier version of the paper during our Summer Harvest (especially Simone Schleper, as discussant), and we received comments from other members of the Making Clinical Sense project team, especially Sally Wyatt, Harro van Lente and Carla Greubel. So in sum, this article would not have been possible if not for real teamwork, and the generosity of our fellow ethnographers and collaborators. Finally, we wish to thank the reviewers for their excellent comments and suggestions for revision, the new editorial team of this journal.