Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ava- The Romantic Anthropologist Avatar

As part of my field study project on the authenticity of experience, I looked not only at how different mediums of recording impacted my research, but also on the way I chose to see.  These different lenses I tried on I called avatars, or different parts of my personality that mediated the way I viewed what I was experiencing.  Having Ava, my romantic anthropologist, as an avatar was a life saver.  Being a student, and a clueless twenty something American who knew little about Ghana, this avatar allowed me to be romantic about my adventures and descriptive in my notes as I went along.

As an avatar, Ava was fairly straight forward and was probably the most stable of my avatars.  She underwent the least amount of evolution in the field.  Here are some of the things I learned as I saw through her eyes during my experience.

  1.  Romantic Spin- Like my "good things that happened today" journal, trying to be Ava helped me see my experience in a more romantic light.  By trying to see through that lens I was prone to have a better day, dealt with culture shock better, and handled different situations with more grace than an avatar like Gipsy (FN:7:18, FN:8:13, FN:17:1, FN:21:10, FN:23:1, FN:83:1, FN:84:3)
  2. Productive- I got many more pages of field notes by far with Ava.  I found that being her was best in busy situations or when I was at school.  Whenever I was a student, this was the best choice of avatar to experience that moment, especially when coupled with some good jots (FN:18:17, FN:18:23, FN: 22:1, FN:22:321, FN:23:31, FN:27:1, FN:27:25, FN:62:32, FN:62:37, FN:69:1).
  3. Observations- Since Ava is supposed to be more of anthropologist, I also recorded much more observations.  Some of them might not have seemed important at the time, but the actions of people and the things that they said could potentially have a lot of value looking back someday.  It also helped me be more aware of how to handle social situations (FN:17:3, FN:27:28).
  1. Contrived- Sometimes, let's be honest, a field study can be a lot of work and everyone is going to have a bad day or two.  When I was frustrated, or even when I was just more reserved and internal in my thoughts, being Ava was a challenge.  Also, some things, like the laundry, tended to lose romance upon a longer stay in Ghana (FN:8:1, FN:29:12, FN:87:1, FN:91:2).
  2. Missing out- There were a few times when I would be spending too much energy recording notes instead of paying attention to the big picture.  Kind of like the experience when a teacher tells you that the lecture will be on the test and you spend more time writing than listening (FN:17:3, FN:27:28).
  3. Description- If I were more true to the spirit of Ava, having field notes that were mostly description with minimal personal "diary esk" moments, then there is definitely a whole side of the experience that never gets to be told (FN:62:1).
All and all, I was really satisfied with everything I was able to capture with this avatar.  I recognize that there were some limitations by seeing through this lens, but Ava allowed me to do a lot with my project.  Her copious notes made up the meat and potatoes of my research, especially in the secondary school.

Photo credit to Cuba Gallery on flickr

(More data on Ava can be found in my field notes FN:9:1, FN:14:4, FN:17:8, FN:18:25, FN:22:41, FN:27:19, FN:30:1, FN:30:12, FN:35:1, FN:43:1, FN:55:1, FN:59:1, FN:65:1, FN:70:1, FN:72:1, FN:75:2, FN:79:1)

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