Adalaj Stepwell: an exercise in slow ethnography

Project: Slow ethnography
Date: 2016
Location: India
Position: Behind the camera

Click here for our audio visual experience.

When doing research, we aim to understand a specific culture, using ethnographic methods which are often codified and documented with interviews, card sorting, cultural probes, etc. Our friend Praveen Nahar from NID talks about slow ethnography, a process distinct from classic ethnography which aims to be less intrusive, less abrupt and allows for a deeper understanding. In fact slow ethnography is not so much a process, but rather a mindset to adopt as a researcher.

Slow ethnography does not necessarily give you the precise answers to interview questions that are scripted beforehand, but allows you to understand a community or a culture a little more in-depth. In the same spirit, spending some time in public places for the sole purpose of observing, can also help you learn a lot.

In this case, we spent some time in the Adalaj Stepwell of Ahmedabad, a beautiful old piece of old infrastructure that attracts tourists from India and abroad. In places like this, you can observe what people do during their weekend and free time, you can observe who travels, and how our presence disrupts (or not) a situation.

We took a multitude of photos and recorded some atmospheric sound. You can hear from time to time the laughter of a passerby, requests for photos, and have the chance to listen to one of 22 languages ​​of India—maybe you will understand pieces of someone’s conversation. These photos and sounds are assembled together for a sort of timelapse, to better illustrate the atmosphere.

This audio visual experiment was built with Bobby Richter.




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