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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.

Nuffnang Mamma Mia screening

Yet another free movie thanks to Nuffnang :-) Thanks again!

There are many reviews of Mamma Mia out there (will do a list in the next post) but here’s my opinion anyway.

It was enjoyable, and I like Meryl Streep, so I enjoyed seeing her in a pretty unconventional role. However, I’m not completely convinced by this recent slew of semi-musicals with conventional actors (the other one I saw was Sweeny Todd ): I mean, they don’t sing that well, and that is important for a musical after all! As a comparison, I didn’t enjoy it as much as Across the universe , which I think is because I prefer The Beatles to ABBA, and it had a very cool sixties/psychedelic feel to it. Also, the singers were better – perhaps because they were not big stars, so the casting could be done more in relation to their musical skills. WW preferred Mamma Mia to Across the Universe, so I guess it depends…

It’s a fun movie though, with an unexpected ending and a non-conventional feel to it – it’s good to see a movie that’s not obsessed with showing youth as the only beauty. Although there are scenes with hot young women and men, there are also scenes with older people enjoying themselves too. There is some very nice photography that made me feel like going to Greece again. Overall, I’d give it 7.5/10.

Before I left for the movie, I spotted a post by joshuongys who was suggesting that Nuffnangers meet up at Burger King beforehand – and managed to gather about 30 bloggers and friends there! Not bad! He only posted the post the night before, but it got Nanged enough to put it in the top ten in Innit which probably explains the turnout.

Normally I never eat in fast food (costs too much and isn’t very good usually), but I will make an exception for Burger King – and I tried out a Black Pepper Whopper. Honestly it wasn’t bad, although the sauce kept dripping all over the place. Here’s the obligatory food photo :-)

I met Jentzen and Marcus for the first time, and caught up with a couple of other bloggers. In the cinema, there was a funny incident when I started talking to the people next to me – somehow they weren’t bloggers and had got the tickets from a friend, and looked at me kind of strangely when I started chatting and asking them what was their blog…

OK – I gotta rush because… I GOT FREE TICKETS TO HED KANDI!! Hehehe :-D Thanks to yapthomas I found out about a competition a week or so ago, and yesterday got a call to tell me to get to Euphoria before 11pm today. Honestly, I haven't been to a club in years (literally), so I feel I've got nothing decent to wear and wondering how long I will last - but I'm looking forward to it anyway :-)

Anti-ISA Candlelight Vigil at Blog House

OK, this is a bit late, but here is my account of the hastily organised vigil last Sunday (15th September). It was very hastily organised: from what I can gather it was decided on at about 3pm and then announced here, here and here; the message also spread by SMS (the way I heard about it) and surely by email too. It started at 9pm and in all about 125 people there (some have placed the figure higher at 160-200). In any case, the speed of mobilisation is testament to the significance of blogs in terms of communication and mobilisation. Although the SMS, email and word of mouth are key to actually making it happen, by having a recognised blog such as the ones listed above (Rocky’s Bru, Nat Tan, Tok Mommy) announcing an event – it immediately has credibility, and provides a stable reference point to check any information that comes from elsewhere. I know that I always check Rocky’s Bru for things to do with SoPo blogs, and Malaysiakini for any political/national information I hear; because there are rumours that swirl around easily too.

Nat Tan, who MC'd for the evening, kicked off by mentioning how when he had been arrested, the knowledge that there were people outside supporting him helped give him strength. Then he asked for a minute's silence.

The people gathered around in the drizzling rain to hear a succession of speakers argue that the ISA is a reprehensible law, and should be repealed and detainees set free. You can get more information in the links below but the basic points were made by the President of the Bar Council Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan who reminded everyone that it was not just about the recently incarcerated ISA detainees, but all of them; YB Wee Choo Keong said that UMNO were making an intra-party problem a national problem; and YB Sivarasa Rasiah said that the government were trying to scare bloggers and the media into silence.

Faisal Mustaffa spoke in BM, so unfortunately I couldn’t understand, but I guess his clothes told me the bulk of what he was saying :-)
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Nuffangers buka puasa at the apartment downtown

Last Saturday Nuffnang was kind enough to invite me to a blogger sharing session at the apartment downtown. It’s in KLCC, right in front of the fountains, and there is a nice view from downstairs (where the restaurant is) and upstairs (where there’s a bar). The design concept is interesting – based on the ‘apartment’ theme, there’s like a living room, bedroom, shower, etc… even the toilet is called the ‘Loo’.

The concept of the menu seems to be ‘east meets west’ – in the buffet they had pasta, lamb, chicken as well as ikan cincalok, kangkong, rendang and other Malaysian specialties. I had the ikan cincalok, pasta, kangkong and bread with a tasty butter (it had sundried tomatoes in it I think) – it was OK, but the pasta was overcooked. For desert I jumped on the apple and pear crumble, along with some kuih – all very nice, and the coffee was good too. Unfortunately free alcohol was not on offer (boo) but the coolers were very refreshing. Their menu is online, if you want to check it out.

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I become a Pole Dancer

Thanks to Nuffnang, I got to see the semi-finalists of the Clorets Amateur Pole Dancing Competition.

They were mostly girls, but two guys were in there all the same – respect! All the semi-finalists all did a short number on a pole, and one of the guys was OK, but the other was too obviously repeating memorised movements with any natural feel. The girls were also variable, with some obvious no-nos, but generally not bad. Some were very good at climbing up the pole too!

Who am I to judge you ask? Well I have a Pole Dancing Certificate (of Participation), delivered by Lola of Viva Vertical :-D

And see what she can do!
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When free isn't enough

Well, my resusable bag giveaway was a miserable failure! :-O

Nobody at all tried to get it, so I was wondering what lessons are to be drawn from it all... and I think these are the relevant points:

• The prize wasn't valuable enough/attractive enough. People (bloggers) aren't that interested in a resusable bag.
• Asking bloggers to do a post is too much (this is relative to the prize of course). When I think of, I've also sometimes been interested in some Nuffnang thing, but not had the time or inspiration to come up with a relevant blog post.
• If I had only asked for some comment of some kind, I may have attracted some response: not all readers are necessarily bloggers, and obviously leaving a comment is easier than doing a post.
• I needed more publicity - I got 100 hits on the post over 10 days, average 10 a day. If there had been more people who knew about it, obviously more may have tried.

Bottom line though: not attractive prize combined with too much work!