How is ethnographic research done

Ethnography is the study of the activities, or members, of a particular social group. Researchers become directly involved, interacting and integrating within their study group. Anthropologists and sociologists usually carry out this type of study and they may work or live within a group or organization for months or even years. An essential part of ethnography is that the researcher must be able to gain the co-operation and acceptance of members of the group, becoming part of that community, if worthwhile results are to be gained.

There are many advantages of ethnography but probably the most important and influential is that it is primary research. Information is first hand and gained from the inside, so should be truthful and valid. The research provides information on social life that would be difficult to obtain using other research methods. It gives qualitative results that are concerned with subjective understanding and not quantitative data. It allows the researcher to learn directly about the social processes within the group and follow up any additional leads that may help in the study.

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This type of research is often aimed at criminal and fringe groups who are difficult to infiltrate. This can make the research dangerous and stressful as the ethnographer tries to fit in with and gain the confidence of the group. It is a very time consuming operation, often lasting months or years, and it is possible for a researcher to become so involved in the group that they loose the perspective of an outsider. Therefore the research could contain elements of bias.

What is semiology? Using any one advert explain how media conventions are used to create meaning.

Semiology or semiotics is the ‘science of signs’ and is used to interpret the meanings and images created by signs in our culture. The sign can be divided into two aspects, the signifier, which is the appearance of the sign, and the signified, which is the meaning of the sign. If we consider a red rose, the signifier is the word, physical appearance or existence of the rose, but the signified is the associated meaning of beauty or love which society, in our culture, places upon the red rose. The task of semiotics is to discover the ideological meanings hidden behind the signs and determine how this outcome is influenced by the underlying structures within our culture.

Signs surround us and their appearance can take on many shapes and forms. Photos and maps are iconic signs because they resemble what they represent but other signs can be indexical, representing a connection between the sign and what it represents, or symbolic, where there is no connection, for example words.

Meanings of signs can be broken down into three categories, linguistic, denoted, and connoted. Language both written and spoken are vital because signs are often polysemic and words can enforce or guide the understanding of a particular sign. A denoted meaning is one where the sign creates the image of what it represents, for example in the following advert the picture would represent a dish of ice cream. Where as connoted meaning is where the sign is polysemic and it could represent any of the ides that are created by the denoted image. For example going back to the Barclays advert the ice cream is used to represent the innocence or child like appeal of ice cream but also implies that you can have it all, including the cherry on the top. We are surrounded by signs and make judgements and decisions based upon them daily. But most of these decisions are made subconsciously and our unawareness of them shows how we can be manipulated and controlled by society.

The advertisement above is for Barclays Bank and although the word ‘Barclays ‘ is clearly printed at the bottom of the page it does not appear to be the most prominent feature. But ‘Barclays’ is a symbolic sign, a brand name and the name is being used in its connoted context so that people will associate there own personal views of the company either from their perceived idea or actual experiences and these could be positive or negative images.

The colour pink is used to create an almost dreamy, soft and rosy background to the picture and produces connoted images of optimism and hopefulness, a way to happiness. This is used to highlight that this product will be better for the consumer, and the use of the words ‘altogether better’ emphasize this point, acting as an anchor to direct the images to the intended meaning.

Using an ice cream to illustrate the product gives it an almost child like appeal. This is a symbolic connection the ice cream can only represent the ‘openplan’ by being enticing, offering the best available and being divided into sections. It is a polysemic sign and language is used to reduce the number of possible meanings. The glass could also be symbolic, representing the type of luxury desert that was unobtainable for many children in the 1960s and inducing nostalgic memories. Enticing these children, now adults in their thirties and forties, to enjoy the fulfillment and just ‘deserts’ of their savings, now they can have it all, the ice cream, the wafer and the cherry on the top.

The word ‘openplan’ has an opening at both the top and bottom of the ‘o’. This sign highlights that the product is accessible, honest, and open to everyone. The capitalist aspect of the advert is disguised, there is no mention of money, and it is only the anchoring word ‘Barclays’ that enables the reader to make this connection.

The Godfather

How are women and the family represented in the film?

Using the film to illustrate your argument discuss the extent to which the Godfather is a good example of the gangster genre?

In the film The Godfather family life is of paramount importance. The Corleone family is portrayed as a loyal and close unit with old traditions and strong family values that stem from their Sicilian roots. The patriarch Don Vito Corleone, ‘The Godfather’, is respected and admired by both his children and grandchildren. He considers his large extended family to be of fundamental importance and they are the only people that he completely trusts. Conformation of this view can be found when he reprimands Sonny for his irresponsible behaviour with regard to his own family, saying, ‘a man that doesn’t spent time with his family can never be a real man’. Don Vito Corleone also refuses to have the family photograph taken at Connie’s wedding until his son Michael arrives. They believe in looking after their own and the ‘family’ almost has its own identity, which no one should ever take sides against, or speak out against. Sonny is particularly protective of Connie beating up her husband Carlo’s and telling him never to tell her to shut up again. The family is the nucleus of their lives and always comes above anything else, even lying to your wife as Michael does at the end of the movie.

Business is kept separate from personal life but it still affects the family’s every day life. The office is based in the family home and many meetings take place there. The dangerous business connections restrict and control the freedom of all members of the family and bodyguards follow them for their protection. Men are dominant and have sexist views, even Luca Brasi hopes that Carlos and Connie’s first baby will be ‘masculine’. The children are shown dancing and playing and appear to be happy and contented, but they have been socialised into this way of life and for them it is normal.

Women within the family remain very much in the background and these characters are not fully developed even their names are not mentioned, except for Connie. When they appear in the film it is in traditional women’s roles, with scenes of them preparing food or looking after the children. They are viewed as the weaker sex and Don Vito Corleone confirms this view when he tells Johnny Fontane to act like a man when he cries like a woman. Women are also allowed to make mistakes and Don Vito Corleone confirms this when he says ‘women and children can be careless but not men’. The men, who control the women, quickly quash their views and opinions and restrict their words and actions. They try to protect the women, telling them to move away from the door when they sense danger and, protect their feelings, which is evident when Don Vito Corleone tries to conceal Sonny’s bullet holes before his mum sees him, after he is murdered. The women are comforting and supportive to their husbands and they accept their role without question. This is particularly evident in the scene when Carlo’s has beaten his pregnant wife Connie but she still defends him, saying it was her fault. They are expected to be feminine, immaculate, and beautiful, they always wear smart dresses.

The two women that Michael becomes involved with play completely different roles in the film. Kay is introduced to us right at the beginning of the film she is an American and the strongest female character portrayed in the film. She asks questions about the family, which Michael answers honestly, telling her that he is not involved in the family business and is not like the rest of them. His attitude towards her quickly changes when his father gets shot and he leaves her standing outside the phone box while he finds out what is happening. Michael then suggests that she should go home to her parents until things get sorted out. Kay tries to contact Michael on numerous occasions when he is exiled in Sicily. But Michael quickly moves on to a new conquest in Sicily, Appollonia. She is not even consulted when Michael arranges to meet and marry her and they are chaperoned throughout their courtship. She is lively and full of life, and is the only female character in the film that has a humourous line. However when she is killed Michael’s grief is short lived, when he returns to America he contacts Kay again and tells her he wants to marry and have children with her. Both these women are manipulated and used for Michael’s own pleasure.

Women outside the family are seen as sexual objects and are exploited and taken advantage of. A typical example of this is in the opening wedding scene when Sonny takes one of the bridesmaids upstairs to a bedroom for his own selfish pleasure. All the other women seen in the film are working girls who the men do not respect or care about, even Fredo was ‘banging cocktail waitresses two at a time’.

From the very first scene in the movie the gangster genre emerges. Bonasera approaches Don Vito Corleone because he wants justice for the attempted rape of his daughter. Immediately it is evident that Don Corleone has the contacts to enable him to carry out the request but at first he refuses because Bonasera has not shown him any respect. The ‘Godfather’ shows little emotion when he agrees to Bonasera’s request and this highlights that violence is part of his normal life. Outside his daughter’s wedding is taking place; it is a huge, joyful and spectacular occasion where money is no object, confirming the glamorous live style that they could easily afford. But it is also obvious that there is a threat of violence, there are armed men guarding the premises and photographers are physically removed and their cameras destroyed. The cars parked outside conform to the gangster genre; they are large and black.

Men who dress in suits and overcoats and wear trilby hats dominate the film. Chauffeurs drive them around in large black cars and they carry guns and other weapons. There is competition between the gangs, ‘the five families’ which results in blood shed and death, but this is considered necessary for the protection of their power and interest. The violence starts when ‘the Godfather’ refuses to get involved in narcotics and Sollozzo attempts to kill him. The family are betrayed by Paulie Gatto and so he is killed and so the revenge and barbaric killings escalate and lead to gang warfare.

The Corleone family does not start the fighting and this enables them to be viewed compassionately. It also allows them to justify the violence and killing that follows because it is done in retaliation and revenge for injustices done to them. We are also shown the human side to the characters, with their wives and children, at the wedding and the emotions when someone close to them is killed. This is not typical of a gangster movie but allows the viewer to follow the irony of the film, particularly when Michael is becoming godfather to his sisters baby, confirming that he denounces evil and yet is having the heads of all the families murdered at the same time. The killing of Salle is very emotional, it is the only time someone appeals for clemency but he is still taken away knowing he is going to die.

During the film Michael matured from an innocent young man not involved in the family business to an evil murderer. He does not hesitate in having his brother-in-law murdered and wants to move the family business to Las Vegas, possibly for his own protection. His role as the new ‘Godfather’ is confirmed at the end of the film when he lies to Kay, putting the ‘family’ before his own family.

The film is full of violence, murder, corruption, betrayal, gang warfare and family loyalty and it is these aspects that make it conform to the gangster genre. Other aspects include the male dominance, dress code, Italian or Sicilian ties and the glamorous lifestyle. However the normality that continued in their lives with their families allowed a different side of their personalities to be portrayed and acknowledged by the viewers. But it is without doubt that the strongest parts of the film conform to the gangster genre.