Monday, January 27, 2014

The Art of Kebetu: Challenges, Rewards, and Growing Pains Associated with Open Ethnography

At the end of December, I had an article appear in Popular Anthropology Magazine. In the interest of supporting this fine publication, I'm going to link to the article here (PDF), rather than repost it. Also, be sure to check out the rest of the issue (Vol 4, No 2) here.

If you followed my tweets and blog posts from Dakar, Senegal in the summers of 2012 and 2013, this article is essentially a behind-the-scenes of that process - why I chose to blog, why I think it's important, how I choose what to share and what to keep to myself, and how my fieldblogging will change in the future. One component that I touch on in the article is the ethical implications of live-fieldnotes - something that I believe deserves to be fleshed out with a little more care than I had space for in the article. Overall, it's an ongoing and ever-changing process, and I fully expect to be joined by more and more anthropologists in the quest to disseminate ethnographic data as quickly as possible, so I appreciate any and all feedback. This is certainly a discussion worth having.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fieldwork in the Cloud: Training in Ethnographic Fieldwork with Global Technologies

(Note: The Prezi associated with this blog entry is from a collaborative brown bag lecture given by Barbara G. Hoffman, Ph.D. and me at Cleveland State University on October 24, 2013. The essay below is an adaptation of my part of the lecture and as such, it does not reflect the opinions of Dr. Hoffman or Cleveland State University.)

There is – indeed, there has been – a movement afoot in higher education to utilize emerging technologies in order to augment our ultimate goals. For me, this ultimate goal is to contribute to educating an informed electorate. The objectives that lead to that point include making knowledge available and accessible. In the pursuit of the goal, we have witnessed this movement take many forms:
  • Educators use Twitter to engage their students about their subjects while academics and professionals use Twitter to live-tweet conferences and lectures.
  • Instructors are employing stylish presentation software with which to present their lessons, not only in the classroom, but over the internet as well.
  • Researchers are publishing in open-access journals, some publishers are beginning to meet that demand by considering new models, and still more open-access online journals are starting up.
  • Prestigious universities are offering massive online open courses (MOOCs) for free, in which anyone can take part.
  • Within my own field, mobile apps and social media are being used to deliver live fieldnotes to both colleagues and the lay public alike.
This past summer, my advisor and I began to develop our own contribution to this pedagogical shift with cloud-based fieldwork training. Rather than going into the field alone with little training, and unable to enroll in a cultural anthropology field school, I chose to return to the community where I had studied abroad last summer – Dakar, Senegal – to conduct ethnographic fieldwork under the mentorship of my advisor in Cleveland, using the cloud as a point of exchange ideas and advice.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Adventures in Applying to Graduate School

The time has finally come. I have been anticipating this moment for four years, and now that it is upon me, I am both riddled with anxiety and beaming with excitement. It’s time to apply to graduate programs to begin in the 2014-2015 school year, and I think I’d like to document this experience. One of my most viewed blog articles is a guest article by a close friend of mine who wanted to share his account of the journey to grad school. To atone for my complicity in sharing his vulgar, though admittedly popular narrative, I’ve decided to share some bullet points on my own experience. It is my hope that this can be helpful for those of you that are preparing to apply to graduate school in the near future, or that this might elicit some response from those of you who have experience with this process.

I am applying to seven programs, one of which is a dual MPH/PHD program, and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, for a total of nine applications. Three applications are already open (which I have started), but the rest will open in early to mid-September. To satiate my organizational needs, I’ve constructed an Excel file that lists each requirement, fee, deadline, and special notes for each application, though many of the finer details, I’ve discovered, are not available until one actually begins the process.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Gecko (Dakar 2013)

My host has been keeping me out all hours of the night. The other morning, about 3AM, we quietly walk in to the house, up the stairs, and down the hallway. I’m leading through the dark with the light of my cellphone, and flip the switch to turn on the light in the hall. I turn to my bedroom door and unlock it, but I notice that at the other end of the hallway, my host is frozen in his tracks. I whisper, “What’s up?” and he motions to the ceiling where I see a small gecko, perhaps 4 inches max.

Ah, cool! I think; I see lizards everywhere, but they’re always running and I can never get a picture. I duck into the bedroom for my camera, pop off a few shots, and then motion to my host, “I’m done, come on.” Then I realize, this big brawny former-goalkeeper of a man is petrified, and I don’t know why. The guy who laughed as I firmly gripped the back of his motorcycle through the streets of Dakar is now afraid to walk past this gecko. “Is it…dangerous?” I ask. “Yep,” he nods. “Does it…jump?” I ask, confused about how it could be a threat from the ceiling. “Yep,” he repeats. Okay, I need more information. “Is it poisonous? Is it lethal?” “No it’s not lethal,” but before he can finish his thought he dives into my bedroom for shelter. The gecko scurries across the ceiling, and startles my host. “Okay, what does it do?” I ask, snapping photos and getting a little too close to the gecko for my host’s comfort.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dear Obama: A Short Guide to Dakar

Dear Mr. President,

I hear you’re coming to town at the end of the month, and I understand that it will be your first trip to Dakar, “The Gateway to Africa.” I’d just like to suggest some things that might make your stay a little easier.

1. Eat some ceeb u jen at least once. It’s great food, but it gets a little old rather quick, but I should warn you: eat small bites slowly because there are a lot of bones. Bonus points if you do it like the Senegalese: Sit with your family on the floor, eating from a single large plate with your hands.

2. Drink ataaya. It’s Chinese tea, mint, and sugar, but it’s some of the best stuff in the world. The trick is, you have to find someone that you can sit with while they make it, because it really is better with friends. Where I live, we have the tea every night, making the tea in a kettle over a portable gas burner. Three glasses is the standard serving amount, and sometimes it can take 30 minutes or more to prepare the tea between those glasses! But that’s okay, because it’s not actually about the tea; it’s about the circle of friends.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"T'as peur?" (Dakar 2013)

The time I was on a motorcycle, I was maybe 13 and I dropped it. When I was a kid, my dad took a spill on his motorcycle and never looked back. So when my Senegalese friend wanted to take me on a ride through the streets of Dakar to see the celebrations of Balla Gaye's victory, I was torn. "T'as peur  (You scared)?" he asked. "Non, je n'ai pas peur (Nah, I'm not scared)," I said against my better judgement. My hands have never sweat so much. Despite the fact that it was probably one of the dumbest things I've ever done (i.e. riding on the back of a motorcycle through Dakar with few or no street lamps, no helmet, and a borrowed Nikon), it was absolutely amazing. At the end of the night, I turned to my friend and said, "C'etait formidable, hain? Mais plus jamais ca (That was great! But never again)."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gendered Health, Reproduction, and Biosociality: An Exploration of Senegalese Men's Health-Related Schemata and Praxis

Last summer, I fell in love with Senegal while studying French in Dakar and using that opportunity to research traditional medicine. At the end of this week, I am returning to Dakar for five weeks of ethnographic research into men’s reproductive health, behavior, and decision-making. Many of my questions are related to how the construction of gender overlays healthcare and reproduction. I also have a philosophical interest in parsing out the influences of Islamic, ethnic (Wolof, Serer, etc.), and French epistemologies and ontologies.

Like last summer, I intend to blog about my research while I’m there, except this time with more photos and probably some video too – stay tuned.

This would not be possible without the incredibly generous support from following people (in a semi-particular order):

Willow Rosen
Dr. Barbara Hoffman
Dr. Mamadou Seck; Abib and Malick Seck
Dr. Deirdre Mageean
Dr. Rosemary Sutton
Rick Jr. and Sue Powis
Dr. Maggie Jackson and the Department of Anthropology
David Rosen
Richard Sr. and Mary Jo Powis
Thadd and Lisa Evans
Joseph and Mary Wargo
Mary Lou Johnstone
Brian Johnstone and Carleen Almasy
Jeff Johnstone
Rev. Walt and Charlene Powis
Faith Jones
Marietta Smrdel and Cynthia L. Werle
Sue Fout
Lois Bryan
Chris Kraska, Natalia Buchwald, and Sydney Stark