5 December 2012

Using ethnography to study asthma

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putting people first
by experientia

Ethnography can be used to inform important health and policy decisions. But there are few public case studies that illustrate the value of ethnography for this specific context. When Erik Bigras of EthnographyMatters learned about The Asthma Files, a project where ethnographers were not only gathering data to better understand asthma but also openly sharing the data, we became very excited to feature their work.

The Asthma Files was first envisioned in 2006 by Kim and Mike Fortun, who wanted to address the contested space of asthma research. One of Kim’s graduate students, Erik Bigras, became involved in the project in 2009. Although Erik’s original dissertation topic was on game design, his research evolved to include the Asthma Files as one of his fieldsites.

In the first post of their three-part series, Erik and Kim tell us about how they conceptualized The Asthma Files, why asthma deserves research attention from ethnographers, and how research data is shared on an open content management system.

Erik and Kim’s second post details the exciting process of choosing the best data sharing platform for their project, Plone. We learn about how the Tehran Asthma Files was born out of a close collaboration with the Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture at the University of California, Irvine.

The final post in this series will discuss how other researchers from social scientists to epidemiologists and global health experts can participate in the research project and make use of the data.

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