This article reflects upon the author's experiences in two separate research projects that involved interviewing and observing families with school-age children to learn about how they use media in the home. It focuses on the points at which the researcher intersects with the family, and the ways in which meaning-making is negotiated. Using a social constructionist approach, the article outlines how different families define the researcher's ‘role’ (student, person, guest, negative agent) and how the role may shape the research environment. Ultimately, the article argues that it is critical to explore the complex ways in which families respond to being studied in their natural environment, and the long-term impact the research encounter may have on both the observed and the observer.
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