Monday, October 11, 2010

My Jotting Notebook

In conducting my project on the authenticity of experience I evaluated the different mediums that used to mediate my experience.  As I have mentioned earlier, not only did the avatar I chose to see in dictate my experience, but also the medium in which I chose to express it. A jotting notebook is something that many writers and ethnographers carry around, but rarely consider as a viable part of their final product. There are a few reasons why I think this medium has been valuable to my research. Handwriting looks and feels more intimate, you have flexibility to doodle, chart, list, freewrite, plan, etc without too much pressure. Because I think this kind of scrapbook mentality does have an interesting value, not only documenting my project's progress, but also as a medium itself, I have selected a few pages from my jots to elaborate on this idea.

The Cover: This is the book I selected to go into the field. From this picture you can see that it is well used. Pages are ripped out, the corners are bent, and it has a very raw feeling to it. In the corner you can also see where I brainstormed some of my initial impressions of the weather once I got off the plane. Only a few of these ideas made it into my field notes.

Larium Dream: This is probably my favorite jotting entry. Somewhere along the line I decided to document my crazy dreams from the anti malaria medication I had to take. The first page is fairly legible. I woke up from a nightmare and was conscious enough to get the jist of it. The second dream I had was on the top of the page you see on the right. It was difficult to read, but a few words are distinguishable. The third dream I wrote I was so frustrated that I could not sleep that I did not turn on the flashlight to see what I was writing and wrote right over the top of dream number 2. A little more authentic to a Larium night than my field notes let on.

Planning: Here You can see some bullets I have made throughout the week that I want to include in my email home. When the Internet is so unreliable, it is good to have an outline of what you want to say. I like this page because you can see where I crossed out "To Do" and rewrote "Goals." It shows the progress I tried to make in the field to not qualify my experience and to encourage me to see the value in the moments. By rewording the phrase, I would not feel so bad if I did not check every item off for the day.

Here, but Not Here: This page has a lot of different parts to it. We see another list of goals, some French, math practice, and even a "sleepy, sleepy, sleepy" scribble that shows just how bored I was. This was taken from a math class observation, and judging by my lack of concentration, the end of the day.

Pictures: A jotting notebook allows you to doodle. These are a few drawings that Michael and I did together trying to explain how houses were set up in America. The top right shows a bad attempt at an apartment building, and right below it is a neighborhood. You can also see where I showed Michael the difference between the Rachel's names in the group (although I later found out that Rachel "Morris" is actually "Morse" to my humiliation). I also learned a few names, and we talked about the symbolism our countries flags.

More Drawings and a Recipe: Here you can see some more pictures that I drew to try and remember my experience at the school. I like this because it also has the directions of how to make oatmeal with our limited supplies over the propane stove. It just goes to show how terrible I was at cooking when I first got out there. I came a long way!

Pin and a Bad Poem: This is another favorite. That pin you see in the top left corner was found in my newly made dress by a little girl behind me at church. I have no idea how I did not stab myself! I just stuck it into the page and there it remains. This also shows my mind wandering during the church service, scribbling out a bad poem that had nothing to do with Ghana. We had to do what we could when it came to getting through three hours of church at the branch in a language we did not understand.

Blog Posts: Here you can see some of my ideas for my weekly email to the family as well as some personal emails. When you have such limited time at the Internet you have to make every second count, so I would think of what I wanted to say before I got there. In this page you can also see some of my preliminary blog ideas. The one I wrote about the "McDonald's" in Cape Coast is one of the things found in this brain storms that made it into a blog entry.

Language: On this page you can see where I kept switching into Spanish to try and prevent the kids or other readers from peering over my shoulder to read it (which was a frequent occurrence). It was really hard to keep some thoughts private, and if there was a sensitive subject or a judgment I made I was sure to put it into Spanish. It is also good to keep in mind that all of my notes in Twi could only be written and not properly typed into a computer because certain letters are not in Microsoft Word.

Coding: This is a page where I was testing out different colored pencils to see how I wanted to code my field notes. It is where I developed some of the symbols I used, made sure the colors had enough contrast, and where I did a little bit of organization for my mapping, cooking, plants, and symbols cultural proofs.

I think this is a really fun medium. It is limited because it is just that, a jotting notebook, and not a fully fleshed out written account of my experience. I wrote just enough to remember important parts of the day to include in my field notes. Chances are I am the only one who would even be able to make sense of these fragmented thoughts. It is also limiting because while you are writing your are not able to look at what you were observing, and sometimes people would even shut down when I pulled it out to take notes.  Most of my jots got turned into expanded notes, but there are some aspects, like these that I just pointed out, that never make it into the final product.  Things that I think still have value.

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