avatar, or perspective I chose to see my experience in, important to my project on the authenticity of experience in Ghana, but the mediums I chose to record it in. The avatar and the medium were equally responsible for the representation I came up with. After my experience, I think that there are certain avatars that work better with certain mediums. If you are someone who relates to one more than another, then considering those recommended mediums could be beneficial.
First, for all students or travelers interested in going out into the field I recommend a jotting notebook and a diary. A jotting notebook because our memories are just too fragile, and you can lose important information as well as a viable medium, and a diary because there will always be something you want to express that isn't field note appropriate.
Ava- The Romantic Anthropologist- This avatar was the student avatar. Having an academic approach with course contracts, books, etc for this experience was great for me, but I realize that might not be for everyone. I felt like I got more out of it having had that mindset. To me, it did not feel forced, and it helped me stay positive when dealing with culture shock and some of the other things that come with integrating into a new community. If you are someone who relates to her, I found that typed field notes were better than handwritten field notes. I had a lot more notes when I was using a computer.
Gipsy- The Postmodern Traveler/Writer- If you are more interested in the personal discovery of an experience, then I think handwritten notes are for you. You get more style and personality in both the handwriting and in the subject matter. You capture less, but the things you chose to write about might weigh more. It tended, in my experience, to be more enjoyable to read as well. Although jottings are recommended for all avatars, I think that doing creative writting exercises is helpful for this type of personality.
Myra- The Photographer- As you can see from my research, there is a gap between a more "authentic" picture and an "essence" picture. Which do you relate more to? If you want something for the portfolio, then be that brand of Myra, and bring a fancy camera knowing that you are making a risky decision. If you lean more towards an "authentic" picture, or even just a touristy one, then downgrade on the camera to something you wouldn't mind losing and snap away. Just know that either choice you make there are implications regarding digital photography. If you plan on having any pictures as part of your experience, I highly recommend creating a blog.
Shelley- The Experiencer- If you are not interested in religiously documenting your experience and want to live in the moment then do just that. It is tricky for me, but maybe that is just because I am addicted to journal writing. If you are only about this, then maybe a vacation mindset and not a school research experience with books and course contracts would be better for you. Or, you can be like me and just recognize that you can be like Shelley by living in moments as they come along instead of just making an entire trip out of it.
Akua- The Native- You just can't. We must always recognize that we can never think or be native without translating something out of the original context into our own. Unless you are planning on spending years in the community, or have ambitions to "go native" or become an ex patriot, then I recommend a more Shelley approach. If you do want to do an asethic overlay and write in a native characacter, then pay attention to how people talk, the phrases they use, accents, vocab, etc.
Photo credit goes to Direct Annuaries Stephan Comelli on flickr