30 March 2017

Book Report Entry #3: Taking Notes from Field notes: A Guided Journal for Doing Anthropology

In our continued feature of Fieldnotes: A 'guided journal' for doing anthropology by Luis A. Vivanco, we're delving into his fourth chapter on Taking Notes in his Doing Fieldwork section of the book.

Vivianco documents the principles of good note taking which he's adapted and modified from Emerson et al. 1995. Some of these principles include:
  1. Show, don't tell or summarize events and experiences
  2. Avoid generalizing or impressionistic words
  3. Avoid projections of emotions
  4. Keep a running list of questions
Vivianco's list includes other important principles and reminds me of another blog post I read a while back on Writing Live Fieldnotes by Tricia Wang.

Wang defines live fieldnoting as: 
a blog post that is intended to provide an on-location and synchronous visual and textual coverage of an instance from the ethnographer’s fieldwork. The live fieldnote is created with a image sharing app on a mobile phone that is then shared to other social networking services. Images are accompanied by a description of the image and can also include a brief analysis of what the interaction means to the participants in the image and/or to the ethnographer. 
As part of this process, Wang highlights how these materials are accessible on the internet (although, this may be an issue in certain countries where participants can't reach some social media sites), time stamped and include locating data. Wang argues that live fieldnoting combines what she calls
two activities that are central to ethnographic research: 
  1. the ethnographer’s participation in a social world
  2. the ethnographer’s written account of the world through her/his participation. 
Live fieldnotes are typically comprised of a one to five sentences. The accumulation of many live fieldnotes works towards producing a “thick description” along with other long form fieldnotes.  Live fieldnotes are not intended to replace the entire fieldnote writing process, rather it is just one of many ways notes can be jotted down for reflection at a later point in time.
Both authors of this blog kept blogs during their PhD research (see for example, When in doubt... Map the city and make kinship charts. An Anthropologist in Amsterdam) yet, this live field notes is something different, perhaps something more 'raw'. 

To bring this discussion back to Vivianco, he writes of the importance of converting "raw" to "cooked" fieldnotes. He writes that this process of returning to the scene and adding details missing in the first "raw" take helps create a more holistic picture, what Wang (from Clifford Geertz) identifies as thick description.

**Jennifer, the author of this post, is reviewing this book from front to back; however, as she flipped through the text after having completed the first draft of this post, she came across Vivianco's own reference to Wang's work in his chapter on 'Going Digital'. Wang's post on ethnographymatters.net definitely has some fans...**

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Other posts from anthro averywhere!'s ongoing Book Report on Vivanco's Field Notes: