8.03 Methodological Considerations

c) Recording Methods.

The ways in which ethnographic observations are recorded have cultural and historical baggage and technical limitations. There has been considerable debate about the effect of literary traditions on the anthropological notebook.[1] Writing, being relatively slow, is said to make the logbook entries more reflective. But what does this mean? It is about translating the fullness of the reality experienced into written form. This means making an apparently complete transcription of an oral world, in which not all experiences are even spoken, into a literary form. Usually field notes are meant to be directed to the concrete[2] and be exhaustively detailed. However, my log notes are more of a recording of thoughts, relations and observations of people's opinions. The most obvious material aspect of the Exploding Cinema activity, the films and videos, has not been regularly recorded in the logbooks, as these have not been central to my study.

Of course even participant observer research is limited in what it can reveal with the resources available. I was aware that even with such a small group, short period of activity and relatively small cultural area of influence (at least in terms of geography and critical responses) the groups activity was more complex and wide ranging than my study could encompass or represent. Hopefully the inevitable parameters of the research set by my own resources do not seriously distort my description and analysis of the principle features of the Exploding Cinema project.

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[1] See Roger Sanjek, 'On Ethnographic Validity' in Fieldnotes: the making of anthropology, Ed. R. Sanjek (Cornell UP 1990 p162)

 

[2] See N. Fielding, 'Ethnography', in N. Gilberts (ed.) Researching Social Life (Sage 1993)