Ethnography of Pilots: Introduction

Ethnography of Pilots

Ethnography is an important way for professionals and students alike to learn way of life different from their own. It allows one another to see into unfamiliar practices and understand them by comparing different internal structures. Ethnosemantics is the learning of cultural knowledge through an interview styled process. There is an interviewer, the Ethnographer, and the interviewee, the Informant, someone who shares their way of life with others.

            Informants share culture with us, and culture is knowledge. It is the knowledge of how to interpret the world, and make use of it. It is important for the Ethnographer to be as bias free as possible when conducting an ethnographic interview. This is called:

Sometimes naïve realism gets in the way-. That is, a perception that tells us what we see on the surface is all there is, like looking at the ocean and believe there is not a vast, complex sea of life beneath it.  Other times, Ethnocentrism gets in the way. That is, the mind telling itself that the indigenous culture of the individual is superior to all others often holding the culture up to his/her standards. It is the Ethnographer’s responsibility to overcome ethnocentrisms by keeping an open mind.

Culture is everywhere we look. How does one chart unfamiliar cultural territory? We start by recognizing different types of culture are all around us. Just by attending a University I am involved in student, dormitory, classroom, study, and “my major” culture. Communication majors are different from History majors who are different from Math majors who are different from Chemistry majors. Learning cultural differences is a way to open perspectives and view pathways to understanding these differences and lead us into eliminating ignorance and misunderstanding between one another.

This ethnography will be examining a micro culture, the culture of small group of people. Put your self in an airplane for a minute. There are people sitting in every seat murmuring around you, a baby crying, seat belts buckled, sun shining, you can’t decide if the arm rest beside you is yours or the guy who smells bathed in a sea of aftershave, so you switch the air conditioner off overhead and analyze how you will ever use that air-breather-thingy if something should go wrong. The flight attendant begins to give the safety speech and things start to quiet down. But this is just your perspective as a passenger, what is going on up there in the cockpit? Behind those doors that in ten minutes will have all 237 of you flying higher than Mount McKinley, do you know?

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