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Writing fieldnotes

I'm skimming through a useful book, Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, which has made me think more carefully about the notes I'm taking on my research so far.

I've been keeping notes on the meets I attend, archiving relevant posts, and also trying to keep some kind of diary (not been very efficient at this).

When I attend a meet, usually what I do is record voice notes as soon as possible after the meet (e.g. driving home), and then try to write up the note asap too; I focus on describing the event, recording what was said, and noting my thoughts and impressions. However, the book (pp68-74) talks of describing people, and doing detailed descriptions of events - it's not something I have done, focusing more on what people say and do, rather than the people themselves. How relevant is what they wear? I do remember Marina Mahathir saying in the BUM2007 meet that the audience mostly looked like accountants (it was in comparison to her usual type of event, HIV/AIDS activists, etc.) which was relevant in that it reflected the typical type of SoPo audience/bloggers - older males with more education. In a typical Nuffnang meet, it's younger people dressed in casual outfits - reflecting perhaps their greater concern with socialising, and blogs as a means to socialise...

I think I also need to describe and record finer details of how people interact. By focusing mostly on what was said, I am prioritising the verbal interaction as opposed to other types of interaction such as spatial ones (who sits with who, who moves around more than others…) or other types of symbolic interactions - e.g. people who dress similarly may group together, or people with certain body language or non-verbal interactions. Of course, one typical interaction which has a lot of meaning is the cam-whoring - there's a lot of that that goes on! :-D

It would be interesting to know how/if people interact differently online and offline. But that would be very difficult to know for other people; for myself I know that because I am not very good at socialising/making small talk, perhaps I find it easier online – but I don't feel a significant difference in my on and offline social practices in that respect. Small talk is not my forte - at the Nuffnang Halloween party, I met one guy but we only talked a little before he went elsewhere... I think that after I started asking him questions about why he blogs, etc. he may have felt somewhat interrogated. Or maybe he just found me boring :-)
"Ethnographers should attempt to write fieldnotes in ways that capture and preserve indigenous meanings." (Emerson, Fretz & Shaw 1995:12)

Well, that's one thing that I hope I've been getting right - that's one of the important reasons for this blog! The idea is to record my thoughts and observations in blog-post format for other bloggers to see.

Anyway, other things that need to be done are: finalising the survey and getting it running; and deciding who I shall follow in detail - I was advised not to do too many... I want to do a mix of A-list 'blogebrities', SoPo, Personal, Problog and perhaps a couple of not so well known. I think I also need to start taking more notes about the blog posts that I archive - describing the interactions in terms of what bloggers and commenters say, but also in terms of what they do (e.g. linking). Maybe I will start to do that regularly when I start to follow my 'chosen ones'.

Emerson, R.M., Fretz, R.I. & Shaw, L.L., 1995. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


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suanie on :

hey! not sure if you need some past paper clippings... (digital form though, i don't have the hard print) about blogs in malaysia... argh will go try find it for you to see if they are relevant. i just need to remember! heh

julian on :

Hiya, thanks for the suggestion! I have quite a lot of clippings already so we may have a lot of the same ones, but I'd be happy to see anything you think is relevant :-)

eugene on :

Ah yes, the nonverbal communication, those social cues/markers... wah, so much notes to jot down, but important definitely.

But, if you are recording, you need not catch all the verbal info in one go, so can note the other details too. A party, on the other hand, is tough.

julian on :

You're right, for interviews that's easier - but it's at the meets that it becomes a problem. There's also the blogs that need to be described - the way they are designed is a sort of non-verbal language too :-|

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