Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Research issues

I need to get going on transcribing my interviews. I have transcribed one and started a second, and have many more lengthy interviews to transcribe waiting on my computer. They range from 1 1/2 hours to 3 hours and it takes a lot of effort for me to get going after my three boys are in bed and start transcribing. But regardless, I need to get back to those interviews, because I feel like I am getting out of touch with my research by not revisiting the interviews relatively soon after doing them. I know a lot of folks doing fieldwork don't transcribe their interviews until they finish their research, get home, or wherever they head off to after leaving "the field," and then start dealing with their research data they have gathered. I don't think that is going to serve me well at this point.

Doing this research with children is exhausting. It is highly possible and rewarding, but holy hell, it is exhausting. There are just so many stresses and challenges to doing field research with a family that are nonexistent without a family. They typical way of doing this type of research is for a grad student, with a master's degree, doctoral coursework, and doctoral qualifying exams all completed, to head out into "the field" on her own and begin research with no obligations other than those related to her research. Now, I know that is a highly idealized fantasy of what happens, but compared to my experiences with my family of 5, the idea of being able to stay out all hours without worrying about a babysitter, or my husband at home with the baby, without thinking about the next day, up at 6am/7am ready to go with three boys running around, without worrying about having to support a family of 5, and just trying to manage schedules with my husband so that our boys are well cared for, it just seems like a completely different world. I am being a bit whiny right now, yes, I can admit that. But at the same time, I would never change where I am at this point in my life, or the major choices that I have made up to this point. I am completely satisfied with the choices I have made up to this point - I chose to have three children before I actually had a career. I love this crazy life, it's just crazy hard!

So I'm planning next weekend - time for DEMF!!!!! I am getting excited. It's the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, an annual, outdoor, three day music festival every Memorial Day weekend. It has been happening since 2000.

Here is the wikipedia entry about the history of the festival. It's pretty interesting.

I've got to plan out our schedule, because my husband and I are going together to see most of it, and the afterparties. Oh, the afterparties...need some careful consideration here. There are going to be so many great parties. Kenny Dixon is hosting his Soul Skate party again. We will be there Saturday night. I need to figure out the intricacies of going back and forth between home and the festival to check in on the kids and breastfeed my little baby boy. It's going to be crazy. And the recovery after the weekend??? Oh my goodness, that is going to be interesting. We'll see how long it takes me to get some comprehensive fieldnotes about the festival up.

One last thought about blogging - I've been hearing a lot lately about people making money off of their blogs. That seems so strange and foreign to me. But I guess a fancy few can actually make a good living off of companies advertising on their blogs. We are so financially F***** right now (sorry, but it's true), that I have actually thought about going this route with my blog. Although I don't think I have enough readers to make much difference. But more important than that, it seems unethical to make money off of this research - so I'm not going to start advertising on my blog. Dont' worry, you won't be seeing nasty "ads by google" on my blog.


Anonymous said...

You can hire somebody to transcribe your audio interviews for you if it's taking too long -- just an idea!

Anthony said...

I understand you feeling a sense of urgency about sorting through your field materials as you collect them. I did not do that, and wish I had done so sooner (I am beginning to do so now). It is important for a number of reasons, I think, but the not the least of which is that you can attune yourself to areas that emerge as important, redirect your attention to this or that as what matters to your project shifts, and better refine what you collect. Either way you'll end up with lots of "stuff," of course, but how much of it will be useful will depend upon what you are seeking when you go for it.

One thing I have begun doing (now that I have finally captured 40 Mini Discs worth of material) is indexing recordings. Using this method, I hope to gain an overall sense of exactly what I’ve got before embarking upon the painstaking transcription process. I also seriously doubt I will have the time to transcribe all of what I have word-for-word, and even if I did, I am not sure the value to be gained would be commensurate with the time involved.

I should quickly mention that whenever I have done interviews, in addition to recording them whenever I am given permission to do so, I also always jot down quick notes on paper while the person is talking. This helps me focus in on what they are saying and allows me to refer back to something they’ve mentioned specifically while the interview is still taking place, but it also serves as a backup in case of equipment failure. At the end what I’ve got is a rough index of what the person said (but with no time markings, though a better multi-tasker than I could manage this simultaneously).

So what I’ve begun doing now is retyping those handwritten notes into a Word document, noting the time in the digital file (generated from MD) that I asked each question, and beside it retyping the question. In this way, I am cueing my re-typed notes to the point in the audio file where they occur. Once I completed this rough outline, I then listened back to the interview again in real time and tried to type in as much additional conversation as I could grab while it was playing (without pausing or stopping it).

As a result, I have listened to the full interview twice, I have a fairly detailed outline of what we talked about, and can jump to very specific points of the interview to transcribe word-for-word those parts that seem especially interesting and useful without having to hunt for them. With limited time on your hands, with which I also struggle, this seems like it could be more bang for your buck - so to speak.

Just throwin’ it out there.

Kim said...

Anthony is totally right. Do this. Index rough in the field, index detailed later, and transcribe strategically. That's my plan, as I have been absolutely unable to manage transcribing interviews while "in the field." I mean, come on. There's only so much super-humanness we can expect of ourselves out here.

Nice blog, by the way.

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