Isaacs, E. (2013). The Value of Rapid Ethnography. Advancing Ethnography in Corporate Environments: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, Inc. Retrieved from:

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In her contribution Isaacs argues that the ample time ethnographers were granted for doing their research in a corporate setting has been replaced by more speed enforced by the business. Ethnographers have to accept that need for rapidity and need to alter their approach. Isaacs described how she used rapid ethnography in three case studies in which time plays an important role: what it means for research activities, how it shapes the work, and the compromises it provokes.

With her first example ‘Parking Enforcement’ Isaacs described how she organized a study for a client who provided services for paid parking. This client intends to generate a system to guide Parking Enforcement Officers (PEOs) to potential parking violations. The client’s question was ‘understand parking officers’ common practice to help guide the design of the system’. In a period of five weeks Isaacs observed three PEOs using a video camera. Notes were jotted down during the rounds with the PEOs and detailed notes were taken based on the videos. After discussing her analysis with the research team a video podcast was produced and sent to the client. Isaacs admits that her observations do not cover every aspect of the problems related to parking enforcement and does not guarantee that all her findings are represented. However, it helped the client to identify possible problems with the design of the new parking system and envisage future technological developments.

The other examples described concern Hospital Nursing and Mobile Communication where Isaacs used the same technique: observation and podcasts. In both situations a small group of participants was involved, respectively 3 and 10. Research for the nurses took two months; the mobile communication project 10 weeks.

Analysis of the findings of ethnographic research showed that further development of the parking system might not lead to the desired result for the client and it had a major impact on the work of the nurses in the hospital. The mobile communication client became aware of his opportunities in the market. According to Isaacs these - in my view - pretty good results that according to Isaacs can only be achieved in a short period of time if there is teamwork of several researchers and/or active participants. The project must have a clear objective to help the researcher to focus on data that are relevant to the purpose of the research. To generate persuasive insights and to build up evidence for the findings video data are strongly relied on. Regular communication is important to keep the research team, participant and client on track.

With her practical examples Isaacs shows that ethnography as a research method is adequately equipped for short-term research.