Fieldwork Lesson #5 is one I KNOW, but for some reason, I didn’t do… ALWAYS test your sound equipment. Don’t just test it before you record, which I did, but after your recording, play it back and make sure it worked.
I bought a new voice recorder before coming because my other one is over 10 years old. My first interview I did everything at the highest setting. The sound quality was great, but the file was massive! So we lowered the mic sensitivity and quality, which is fine. What I forgot to test was a feature we also turned on that takes out quietness. Mike thought this would be a great feature. I wasn’t convinced, especially because of my training as a linguistic anthropologist whose professor looks at pauses as part of the communication. Anyways, I said I would give it a try, but then we got distracted and forgot to test it.
So every few days I would record a conversation or interview, but because I was so busy collecting data, I hadn’t had time to play it back… Finally, when we were on Isabel I asked to record two important meetings with community leaders. They agreed. At the end of the first meeting, I was surprised that we had only been talking for 30 minutes, I thought it had been over an hour. I didn’t think much of it and was tired so I went home and to bed. Then the next morning I had another meeting with a group of women. At the end of this hour + meeting, I realized that the recorder only recorded 15 minutes! That is when I realized that the setting had cut out everyone’s voices except my own… Thankfully I took good notes for both these meetings so I typed up what I remembered right away! I also will be returning to Isabel and will follow up again with these individuals.
Today, I sat down to organize my other recordings and begin listening to them. I then realized that this setting had been on for seven of my conversations with students! Not only did it cut out long pauses, but it also cut out very short pauses of breath etc. I can still get the meaning of most of what they said, but it is very choppy. This was quite frustrating to find out… I didn’t take as good of notes at these meetings and they were about a month ago… so now I need to try to listen and figure out what is lost. I only have two weeks left so I won’t be able to follow up with everyone, but hopefully, I can clarify with a few either in person this week, when I return, or via Facebook anything that was lost…
So Fieldwork Lesson #5: Check your equipment before and after recording. Take good notes in addition. Technology is great, but don’t be fully reliant on it!
Fieldwork Lesson #6 follows closely behind… type up your notes and interviews while it is still fresh in your mind. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle of research and forget to process through your notes at the end of the day. I have been up to a week behind, not including interviews. I am still working to create a good schedule for research, writing, and beginning analysis. And interviews, you don’t have to transcribe it all right away, though that’s ideal, at least play them back and outline some main ideas. If I had done this, I would have caught the mic issue way earlier!