Still here

Ideas are like coffee; they taste best when warm. The sooner I execute the idea, the better the outcome will be. That’s what I learned through writing this semester. The outcome of my writing is better if I’m actively making progress and interested in the topic. Ethnography is a new way of doing research for me. Way different than conducting research by reading different articles and making conclusions from them. With the fieldworking process, I don’t have to dive too deep in the reasoning processs. It’s more about making connections than a literary analysis. The evidence is gathered from my observations, just have to elaborate on them with literary resources.

The writing process is a push-and-pull process, with me constantly tugging with my extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. Would I get a good grade if I adequately spent time working on these writing assignments? Yes, but do I feel like doing it? No. Unfortunately, I struggle with eating the frog, so writing a whole lot of words feels like watching a feature-length movie in class, in which you’ll have to answer questions about it later for a grade. But after you make it through the movie and answer the questions, you’re done. That’s when I use this magical process called taking a bite out of the elephant, or chunking. It makes the assignment seem smaller and more organized. Bribery also works. If I finish my chunk for the day, I’ll reward myself by watching an episode of anime or going on a walk in the park. It’s like running on a treadmill with a slice of cake hanging above you. Doing this in an ethnographic way requires more commitment. I can’t attend an one-day art exhibition on another day. You miss it, you miss the research opportunity forever. No room for procrastination here.

Let us begin with freewriting. Freewriting ate me up at first until I started writing incoherent thoughts until I got a topic to write about. This is an exaggeration of course, as sometimes I’d have nothing to write or too much to write. Sometimes I wouldn’t have anything written so I’d improvise when sharing. One day I would start it off by writing “ I don’t know I don’t know I have nothing to say I have nothing to say”.  This opener would stick with me. Oddly a great way to get ideas to pop into my mind. Felt a lot less anxious when sharing my writing. I sometimes freewrite right before taking field notes as a warmup and to set the mood.

Fieldworking is a new concept for me, this semester. Honestly, this was more fun than sitting on my butt and scrolling through hundreds of articles on my laptop. Research is part of the process but doing a lot of reading for an essay is quite repetitive. Besides, I have an excuse to go out and learn about cool things. People-watching has been one of my favorite things to do when I’m in the park. So is questioning every single thing that doesn’t make the slightest sense to me. Doing them for a grade is easy work. And I get more points for talking with other people. Nice.  I observed the CCNY shuttle bus. The process wasn’t difficult at all, everyone was minding their own businesses, no conflict at all.  I started making observations from the smallest things; the upbeat music the bus driver plays while driving, the design of the seatbelts, and the headphones the students wear.

Making stances was another challenge. Identifying what to write about is one thing, but churning my ideas into a stance is a whole nother problem. With the block observation assignment, I walked around and stood in various places. Taking the smallest notes from the time of day to observing the group of people smoking weed and drinking alcohol. Kinda hard to group those people with the pigeons eating a piece of bread into a single idea. I guess it’s a typical afternoon in Washington Heights. But from prior knowledge I know people blast loud music from their cars, so I added that to the mix. Pigeons, bread, alcohol, and loud music. 2 sides of the same coin. That’s how I came up with “My block is either quiet or loud”

The offsite ethnography project was very fun. Finding an event to observe was no hard task. I made lots of observations in a short amount of time. This gave me more insight into a subculture I did not know much about. Storytelling and narrating is one of my weak points. I’d overuse words like ‘then, so, and because’. Tried playing around with the structure of the sentences to avoid repetition. Also attempted to make it a bit conversational to add humor, like if the reader is a close friend. I took some time to form some interview questions based on the research I did beforehand, seeking what I wanted to know about that topic. Was surprised by how much information I got out of the interviews. Back then, I would ask questions that didn’t go far beyond the surface, only getting minimal information.

Yeah, what can I say? Learned about doing fieldworking and experimented with my writing methods. Taking some time to do my research and making the most out of the interviews guarantees a better outcome. Sometimes you have to empty your mind to record better thoughts.