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YouTube Ethnography Project

Tool Objectives: 
  1. To utilize YouTube as an entertaining pedagogic resource for culture learning.
  2. To engage in a creative process of cultural exploration through video production. 
  3. To understand the nature of ethnographic fieldwork, cultural representation and interpretation.
Tool Description:, a free video-sharing website, has quickly become a popular way to upload, share, view, and comment on video clips. Faculty members are increasingly using the site as a pedagogic resource for everything from newsworthy events from around the world to “slice-of-life” videos that teach students about other cultures. This tool has been designed to introduce YouTube into the education abroad experience as a way to enhance students’ understanding of cultural representation and interpretation. By creating a context for students to produce and discuss short video clips grounded in principles of ethnographic inquiry, this tool can help them become more insightful, patient and introspective cultural learners. 

Tool Procedures: 

1.   Introduction. Provide students with a brief introduction of ethnography as a tradition in qualitative research. Show the YouTube video clip, “A Vision of Students Today” [] or a similar video. Facilitate a discussion of the video’s representation of contemporary students.

2.    Assignment Part One: Prior to Departure. Have students locate two video clips on YouTube that in their opinion accurately portrays an aspect of U.S. American culture and one aspect of the host culture. They should write a brief description (one page) of each video and a defense in support of its representation. As class time allows, give each student 10-15 minutes to show one of the two video clips. Most of their presentation should be given to discussing the video and its approach to cultural representation. Expect a lively debate around stereotyping. Video links and write-ups are due at the time of the presentation. 

3.    Assignment Part Two: Upon Return. While abroad, students should work in pairs to create a YouTube video of one aspect of the host culture. Be prepared to suggest particular topics or limit topics to the general focus of the course. The video should be no longer than five minutes and should be uploaded to YouTube. Upon return, each pair should be given 10-15 minutes to present their video clip. The class discussion should focus on their approach to representing the host culture. Students should submit a link to their video clip and a 1-2 page reflection paper within one week of their class presentation. The reflection paper should discuss the process behind their approach to making the video and what they’ve learned about representing culture through video.

4.   Video Ethics & Etiquette.  Allot class time for a brief discussion of ethics associated with video production and public access. 

Tool Evaluation: 

This assignment could be worth up to 30% of the course grade: 10% for Part One and 20% for Part Two (10% for the video clip). Students should not be graded on their video production skills. Rather, grades should be based on their ability to represent and interpret an aspect of the local culture through video and their class presentations and discussion. 

Tool Time Requirement: 

At least three class sessions for an introduction to the assignment and for student presentations. 

Tool Author(s): 

A. Ogden, 2009

Tool Handouts [.doc or .docx]: 

Site copyright 2012, University of Kentucky, Education Abroad.
Toolkit Authors: Duarte Morais, Ph.D., Anthony C. Ogden, Ph.D., & Christine Buzinde, Ph.D.
More information about the toolkit authors.

Danland theme modification by Vaughan A. Fielder.