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I was reminded of my blog again recently when an editor from Popular Anthropology Magazine asked me to write a short article on my experience of blogging from fieldwork. Her questions made me miss the time I was blogging regularly:
For example, what are some of the challenges and rewards of blogging during fieldwork? Are there any special precautions you need to take in order to maintain the anonymity of research participants? Have any of your research participants read your blog? How does blogging impact the accessibility of anthropological research? What does blogging reveal about fieldwork that may become lost in other publications? How do you transition from blogging to writing up?
I’ll link to the article when it appears in the magazine in June. While writing the article, I became so inspired that I set up a new blog Cicilie’s city blog (Cicilies byblogg) where I consider blogging from my recent project. Now the only challenge is to find time… between feeding the 6 months old and playing with the 4 years old and all the rest.
Another thing that has happened in this project since the last time I updated this blog, is that the radio clip I wrote about previously was aired again. It lead to a request from a support group from people with psychological problems and another from a library to hold a speech. I’m working on the latter now and have titled the lecture Therapy and democracy at the bar: Slam poetry in Paris. It was fun to write in Norwegian about slam poetry again, and I’ll see if it’s possible to transform the lecture into an article of some kind. I desperately need to publish…
Apropos this desperate need: The first I got on with after the birth of my second son was an application for a postdoc. I thought my head was pretty fit for starting working again, particularly since I had so much time on my hands to just sit thinking about things for a long time (seeing Little Fatty Pear just get fatter and fatter). When I received the evaluation I realised that I must have been a bit out of my mind at the time, as I had proposed to write nine articles and two books during a two years long postdoc period. Now, I’ve sent a new application, for a 3 years long position this time, and with the aim to write only 4-5 articles and a book, all from the slam scene inspired by my other research: The stage is all the world, and the players are mere men and women: Parisian performance poetry and other stories from Relational Europe… We’ll see. In a few months time, it seems I’ll have not much more to do than to look after Little Fatty Pear and write.
But for the moment, it’s not Parisian slam poetry that counts, but suburban libraries and urban morphology, but that’s – hopefully – food for another blog coming up very soon.
Ops, there I almost forgot the nice little interview (in Norwegian) at Foreningen !Les ("Read"): In the field with poetry slam
Now, all but one chapter have found their final form, with only minor polishing and weaving together left to do. As this blog has helped me to keep a more coherent and exterior perspective on what I’m doing throughout the various stages of the project, I would very much have liked to keep this diary updated as the nuts and bolts, long lines and small steps took shape. But although this final phase has been all about making sense of and making accessible all the preceding work – thus the writing of the small posts in this research blog writ large – it’s been difficult to find time to write here. Since August last year the writing has been flowing almost seamlessly (after I lost my presentation due to a ridiculous back-up mistake the day before I headed off to a conference, and I had no choice but to speed up considerably and quickly fill the gaps with top-of-the-head translations of French slam poetry). And the pieces have fallen into place with astonishing precision. – Here comes a few examples, from the remaining chapter which I’m working on now and which is still in a mess: The seemingly low level of education has puzzled me (although none of the people I asked about it agreed that it was particularly low). Then I – a bit late perhaps, but some differences are less obvious to look out for than others – found out that there’s a far lower percentage of university degrees and even final general high school exams in France than in both the US and Norway. In the same book where I read this – The Dignity of Working Men, a comparison of working class moral boundaries in the US and France – I also learnt that class solidarity and class struggle are still overwhelmingly present in France, despite the decline of the communist parties and the exceptionally low percentage of labour union membership. This puts the emphasis on solidarity and equality of the slam sessions into a far broader context than I initially thought and lead me to re-read The Distinction by P. Bourdieu. And oh my, what exhilarating surprises! Almost on every page there were things to enter into discussion with, and I started to wonder if the slam milieu could provide an example of an community and art form of liquid modernity (Z. Bauman) – thus were coherent boundaries have dissolved – but which has retained a strong sense of (class) solidarity… Well, well, more on this later when the bits and pieces of this chapter also find their place.
The point of this post was to state that I’m still here, thinking about this fieldwork and writing up blog has followed me through thick and thin of the last five, soon six, years. Now, it’s no more than a few months left, and I hope to be able to leave a trace of this final phase, as the last threads find their places in the tapestry.
When I started blogging again, I gave myself a 10-days interval between blog posts. The interval should be long enough to be realistic and feel comfortable, but not so long that I lose sight of the trains of thought I keep on track here. To blog regularly, sharpens the attention (as I said a long time ago here) to the little tidbits that pop up in the mind which somehow connect to the research process, without being speaking directly to what I’m working on.
There are a couple of blog posts at various stages along the production line, but as I discovered today that I’m three days late for my self-imposed 10 days deadline, I’ll skip the mindfulness and instead just quickly sum up one thing I’ve been working on lately.
At the same time as I read Knausgård and pondered upon anthropological elements in novels, Aleksandra Bartoszko interviewed me (in Norwegian) about some photos I’d taken during my fieldwork in Paris. Inspired by an art exhibition (see the interviews with the artists Lange and Heier), she made a series of interviews on ethnography and art and asked me about how I saw the differences between the two. I’d never thought of my photos neither as ethnography nor as art, and she made me think about the criteria I – until then, unconsciously – confer on the one and the other. The co-occurrence of the interview and my plunge into fiction inspired me to initiate a workshop on Representations of social life (Norw.) at the Norwegian Anthropological Association’s annual meeting, which Aleksandra and I will co-chair.
Three recent events have inspired me to get this blog going again. The last drop must have been a post by the incredibly prolific research blogger Mary Stevens. In her last post, she tells about her PhD viva and her examiners’ interest in her research blog:
One of the things they were particularly interested in - and of which I didn’t make that much in my write-up - was this blog and the specific contribution it had made to the research experience. I talked about the inspiration, in particular C. Wright Mills‘ idea of the research file, and how it helped extend my presence in the ‘field’ into the virtual arena. Overall, they seemed to think that in an ideal world all researchers would be blogging, as a way of communicating their research to their peers and to the general public, and as a means to keep a kind of intellectual diary. Their enthusiasm has inspired me to find some way to carry on, although I suspect in a new form, as I think this blog has outlived its usefulness (as my failure to post over the last few months has amply illustrated). (Read the whole post on Mary Steven’s blog here.)
As I’ve been chronicling my experiencing continuously, I feel I shouldn’t stop now: The strange things happening after leaving the field, when experiences are turned into data and written documentation, are of course as part and parcel of the research process as is the hanging around in Paris-life I was writing about until last summer. But until now I haven’t
The second event spurring me on to continue blogging, was a brief remark from one of my colleagues who recently got back from his fieldwork: “It’s funny how your friends slowly turn into your informants when you get back to academia and start writing up,” he said. How right! That uncomfortable fact is exactly what’s been churning around in my mind for months now, and I feel it’s urgent to voice this phenomenon/experience in a research blog at this stage.
The third event is the sheer joy and inspiration it gives me to read the research blogs from some of the Master students I was teaching in the spring who now are out in the field all over the world: Rakel blogs (with photos!) from Malta, Nina from Cuba and Inger from India (I think she’s a photographer, ‘cos her photos are really incredible)…
Ah finally, there it’s done, my first post for more than three months…
I’m happy to hear that some Master students read my blog in order to prepare for their own first fieldwork. The idea of this blog has never been to inform about what’s going on in France, neither on findings in my own research, but rather to show snapshots from an anthropological fieldwork-in-progress - so I would love that other fieldworkers (to be) find inspiration here. As the research has moved into a new stage after I returned to Paris in mid January, the time is therefore overdue to provide some news from the progress.
Since October 2005, I’ve been blogging from my fieldwork experiences right amongst the Parisians, but from now on this is - hélas – no longer the case. I’ve returned to Oslo with all my fieldnotes, photos, impressions and sentiments, and after living and working autonomously for 10 months, I’m now trying to reintegrate into the office environment (as well as my Oslo life). Since my intention with this blog has been to document not only how my fieldwork developed, but also the rest of the research process, I’ll try to keep on blogging from the office.
The name of my blog is a sort of homage to the field diary that inspired me to start blogging: Jon Henrik among the Ifugaos. Lorenz, my Webmaster and the editor of www.antropologi.info, asked me ages ago to write a few words on why I decided to write a blog from my fieldwork. In fact, the answer isn’t as well-considered as Lorenz, a dedicated net publicist, might have thought. I just thought that what Jon Henrik had done was such a cool thing to do: It was nice to see what he was doing among the Ifuagos. However, after I started I have noticed that blogging sharpens the attention, just like taking a lot of photos (and probably painting) does; One starts to see motifs everywhere, and then one has to reflect on how to make the motif into a story so other people can understand what you want to tell them.