Ethnography is a qualitative research design aimed at exploring cultural phenomena. In product development the term refers to identifying how humans (potential customers) interact with artifact (potential products).
If done properly: Ethnography observes the world (the study) from the point of view of the subject (not the ethnographer) and records all observed behavior and describes all symbol-meaning relations using concepts that avoid casual explanations. This creates an abstraction that can be used to refine or redefine the product so that potential customers can be given a product that is intuitive or desirable.
The goal is to collect data in such a way that the researcher imposes a minimal amount of their own bias on the data. Multiple methods of data collection may be employed to facilitate a relationship that allows for a more personal and in-depth portrait of the informants and their community. These can include participant observation, field notes, interviews, and surveys. Interviews are often taped and later transcribed, allowing the interview to proceed unimpaired of note-taking, but with all information available later for full analysis. Today, "video ethnography" is the dominant type of study as applied to humans interacting with products. It is easier analysed and provides more robust information to the researchers.