Sensory ethnography explores the way “that perception and senses impact one’s view of culture. The ethnographer is, in fact, part of the sensory material and, as such, is subject to having political or ideological agendas.” There is an interrelationship between the body, mind and environment, which impacts the way that we interact and perceive cultural or social data. Therefore, the “ethnographic practice entails our multisensorial embodied engagements with others (perhaps through participation in activities, or exploring their understandings in part verbally) and with their social, material, discursive and sensory environments.”
The term ‘embodiment’ refers to someone or something that is a perfect representative or example of a quality, idea, etc. For example, the gentleman embodies grace, wisdom and impeccable taste. I immediately picture an older gentleman with fine-tuned manners and a more formal, polished presentation. In psychology, the term is also used to emphasize the role that the body plays in shaping the mind. Pink, in her book Doing Sensory Ethnography, used the term ’embodiment’ to describe the purpose of doing ethnographic practice. Capturing and presenting sensory information in the most truthful and complete manner will aid in understanding of individuals, situations, and cultures.
After reading Pink’s book, I immediately thought about my early career days when I worked as a nurse. To best understand a patient and their medical concerns, I needed to assess the entire picture. What was the patient’s mood, emotional state, physical state, behavior, appearance, etc.? Further, I assessed the patient’s environment and support system to better understand their situation – including what was their relationship with others. I’ve always been taught to look at a person holistically, and to avoid making assumptions. In assessing a patient, I need to be aware that the current situation could be impacted by my presence. For example, is the patient exhibiting signs of fear because I’m going to give them an injection? While fear may not be a normal, routine emotion for this person, my personal interaction and the situation contributed to this change. It is possible that their fear could also drive a high blood pressure result. In this case, it would be incorrect of me to make the assumption that the patient has chronic high blood pressure based on the data from my visit. I must use my awareness and observation to accurately assess and read the patient. My perception of the situation should embody the patient’s whole situation, and should not rely on a few data points that could misconstrue the truth.
“The challenge for ethnographers is to present information in such a way that invites our audiences to imagine themselves into the places of others, while simultaneously invoking theoretical and practical points of meaning and learning.” As a nurse, I was responsible to accurately document and reflect a patient’s situation to the doctor and other healthcare providers. I believe this also describes Pink’s challenge. We must document and use the sensory data that we collect in order to paint a clear and meaningful picture to the audience, one that allows them to envision a true representation.
Today, I find that I am much more likely to engage with multiple forms of media to broaden my knowledge than what I would have done five or ten years ago. Pink discusses the relationship between media and imagination, and the idea that ethnographers can influence the mental processes of the reader based on the material format in which information is presented. The evolution of media has allowed an individual to share their own memories and perceptions in a manner that engages the imagination and memories unlike a written work. Going back to my nursing experience, ten years ago a procedure was often explained to another person by word of mouth. A nurse would explain the procedure to a patient from her own understanding and point of view, yet the patient often had no true picture of what the procedure would entail. Today, patients are shown videos to give them a better idea of what to expect. They can go online and hear about other people’s experiences and memories, so they enter into a procedure with a much more accurate representation of what to expect.
I find that I am much more able to ‘do sensory ethnography’ when I slow down and take the time to properly assess people and situations. My bias and assumptions need to be set aside, and I must seek to truly sense the truth about the object that I am studying. My view must be both broad and detailed, and my account to others must embody the truest picture possible.
 Pink, Sarah (2012-06-30). Doing Sensory Ethnography (p. 23). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.
 Pink, Sarah (2012-06-30). Doing Sensory Ethnography (pp. 25-26). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.
 “Embodiment.” Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed September 18, 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/embodiment.
 Pink, Sarah (2012-06-30). Doing Sensory Ethnography (p. 42). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.