Plowman’s Ethnography and Critical Design practice is a critical review which describes how ethnography has become a central research technique in a variety of fields including business and academia. By explaining the relationship between design and social sciences, Plowman elucidates how ethnography has affected the design practice and how the future enhancement in design artefacts can produce an impact on the consumer behaviour. Plowman takes a straightforward approach to his review. Before probing into much detail, he first provides the definitions of the core concepts – anthropology, culture, designed artefacts, study of Imponderabilia etc – that are later used in his evaluation. This makes it easier for the readers to grasp the key terminologies before studying their usage.The author then dives into the evolution of ethnography and explains how the imperfections in one phase of its development led to further approved methods of research.
In contrast to earlier techniques such as armchair approach and Malinowski’s social anthropology, Plowman strongly advocates immersion and thick description as the soundest ethnographic technique whereby the researcher engrosses himself into the daily flow of specimen’s life to generate the most genuine responses.Plowman regards “participant observation” as a core tool of ethnography both on academic and commercial grounds; however the extent and duration might differ. Owing to time constraints, the business research uses specific ethnographic tools that can be completed more rapidly. In contrast, academic researchers conduct research extending to months and even years.The author concludes his argument by explaining the de Certeau’s modern approach to ethnography whereby he challenges plurality and regards each person as an individual specimen with his own unique needs. He stresses the concept of customization and self-invention and defies mass production. Hence, it can be concluded that an interdisciplinary approach to research can play a vital role in improving the quality of products.