commercial ethnographyuse of ethnographic techniques to inform design and marketing. As well as the mutual influence of commercial market-research and academic social-survey work, there has been an increasing adoption by commercial firms of‘qualitative’ methods of investigating human activity. The most striking is the development of PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION, and a use of the methods of SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY as a means of discovering life styles in precise detail in order to tailor the design of products with precision. Investigators, with a cover story, seek to live a ‘normal life’, as close to the target community as possible. Pioneered by Japanese car firms in the US, and strikingly successful as a technique, it is ironic that what are usually regarded as 'S oft’ or ‘unscientific’ social-science methods have, in fact, remarkably powerful commercial applications.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000