Suggestions for the the Halloween fieldwork assignment

1. Observe carefully, participate if you can, and listen attentively. Informal conversation is an excellent way to gain insights into what is going on, particularly if you really listen carefully. We will devote a session to interview techniques in a few weeks and, as we discussed in class, interviews are an art in their own right. Observing and listening are the focus here. Questions can be asked in the context of informal conversation.

2. Identify a few ideas and techniques from each of the readings to help focus your attention and guide your observations and writing.

3. Consider the pros and cons of recording on the spot (photography, video, audio, notes). Think through your own vantage point within the situation. Document using any and all means possible, but consider also how any of these techniques might attract (welcome or unwelcome) attention, make people more or less willing to talk with you, enhance or distract you from paying attention to the event as it is happening. Make an assessment and then choose. Consider working in teams and sharing responsibilities, particularly in the case of large and complex events and settings.

4. Write up your fieldnotes immediately after the event and the very next day at the latest. You will be amazed at how much detail will fade as the days pass.

Be very careful to record concrete and specific observations and to work carefully as you move from observed details to assessments of what they might signify. Be careful to move step by step from an observed detail to more general characterizations--eg. the difference from characterizing a situation as festive and identifying concretely what you saw or heard that let you say that.

Some techniques for notetaking on the spot:

Two columns on a page. Left column (exactly what you actually see and hear). Right column (the thoughts, questions, and feeling that occur to you about what you are seeing and hearing).

5. Keep in mind:

6. Consult your tip sheet from Newton as a reminder of techniques, particularly techniques of observation, informal conversation, and fieldnotes.

7. Above all, have fun! --bkg