Friday, July 18, 2008

Another update and excerpt

Hey folks! I feel like I'm doing pretty well with the diss writing. I think I may be able to send off another chapter draft by next week. The writing is a bit experimental in the sense that it's not "traditional" ethnography writing. And that makes me a bit nervous about how Eli, my diss chair, will react. Some of the "scenes" I'm writing feel better than others, but overall I'm *really* liking this method.

I thought I'd share another excerpt (but just a portion of it b/c it's so long) to participate in the sharing. And if anybody has any thoughts on the writing in general or on the title or the diagram in particular, I'm all ears.

[Cross posted in full at Wind Farm]

Here is another "scene" from the chapter I am currently composing. It's longer than I'd like, but in addition to providing a window into the lives of each of my subjects - which is my way of "introducing" my subjects - I want to show them in the contexts I observed them in. Though I did get to know some of my subjects well, I would never say we were "buddies." So part of me feels it would be misleading to describe them in such a way - i.e. with a focus on their personalities or their likes/dislikes, etc. My method of "introducing" the subjects tries to imitate Kathleen Stewart's "new ethnography." Because of my focus on physicality and materiality, this feels *right*. But I've said this before in previous posts. I've also mentioned my nervousness about submitting this chapter. But whatever.

There are approximately 13 scenes right now. The settings range from bball practice, to study halls, to classroom interactions, to meals in the cafeteria. As well, I've decided to incorporate scenes that focus on non-subjects to provide some insights into the characters that circulate through this ecology and who have a huge impact on what takes place. Some of those non-subjects include an informant, an administrator, Coach and the coaches, other students and at least one instructor. I'll compose two or three more and then revise the introduction to this chapter. At the moment there is no "analysis" of each scene. I prefer it that way for the time being. We'll see what Eli thinks...

Here, now, complete with a basic layout of the classroom, is the scene (the title of which I am not happy with):

Scene II: “Students and Classes”
04 October 07 AA in English 099

8:00 a.m. and still the researcher sits alone. He grabs his bag and exits the classroom to search the surrounding rooms. He has the class schedule for each of the participants, and he has meticulously charted them out, but maybe he made a mistake. As he walks out he runs into CC who is walking up the steps. Like a haggard St. Christopher without his walking stick, he wearily leans on the railing. CC is haggard, bent over at the waist and, with great effort, pulling himself up the railing one hand over the other. To his knees and both calves there are bags of ice Saran wrapped to his legs – 4 ice bags altogether. The team had 6:00 a.m. conditioning again today. CC is heading to English class he says, so the researcher walks with him, thinking maybe he shares this 099 English class, a basic writing course that precedes 101, with AA (even though his chart of schedules indicates otherwise). As they slowly amble towards the room CC, who will earn a 3.69 GPA this semester, laments, “This is retarded English. I don’t even know why I’m in it.” They approach the door and CC opens it. As he walks through the researcher sees that this isn’t the right class; he hasn’t received permission from this instructor to observe. “Oops,” he says, “wrong one. I’ll be back later.”

He continues his search by peering through the glass into the classrooms that surround the courtyard. Then Dr. X emerges from the elevator with books and materials in tote; she pulls a roller file – basically a plastic crate with wheels and a handle. Five minutes after the 8:00 class time the researcher follows the instructor into the room. At 8:05 AA is the first to arrive. He takes his seat in the front of the room in the second row in front of the lectern (AA is the green X in Fig. X.XX). Appearing harried but not necessarily rushed, the instructor walks into a room with two people – AA and the researcher. Referring to the missing students she exclaims, “This is unusual, very unusual.”

(Fig. X.XX. The green X is AA. The brown X is the researcher. The yellow rectangles represent computers. The red Xs are males. The purple Xs are females. The navy blue X at the front of the room is a SmartBoard. The aqua blue in the back is a wall of windows.)

AA is carrying a half-empty, blue Gatorade Fierce and his backpack, olive green with black straps. He’s wearing black slip-on sandals with white socks pulled up to his mid-calves and a white t-shirt and white gym shorts with red/black triangle design towards the outer knee on each side. His backpack remains on the table to his right throughout the class.


jerry'sdaughter said...

Hi, Chris

The writing style is interesting in putting the reader right there to help in seeing what you see. Have you considered referring to yourself in first rather than third person? So long as you are being nontraditional anyway...?

I like the style a lot.

Do you want some detailed editorial suggestions? If not, just skip. :) I would suggest a few edits -- such as not using the word "haggard" twice. The sentence that describes the ice wrappings could be written in a little more straightforward way perhaps, Four ices packs [if that's the correct number, I can't see what you wrote from this screen. Another suggestion is that in the sentence where CC complains about the English class, it's a little bit like jerking forward and back through time to get the comment about the future QPA and then the currrent comment about the English class. Maybe just say, CC, who earns a high-B average, complained...

Not necessarily those words - that's just a general idea.

As to the diagram, maybe in the context of the entire diss I would see how the diagram helps but in this excerpt I am not seeing it as needed.

I hope your advisor approves your use of this style. Are you happy with it? I think it's a great way to communicate your observations in a way that s accurate and engaging.

C said...

JD -

I appreciate your insights and your suggestions.

As for the edits, I hadn't even noticed twice using "haggard." Hm. Thanks for pointing that out.

Right now I'm mostly in write mode, trying to get as much out of these lil fingers as I can. So editing happens on the fly and revision is waiting till later.

But I do appreciate your comments. I had been and still am wondering about the diagrams... I'm hoping to send off a draft of this chapter before Tuesday.

I'll keep you (all) updated on any feedback...

jerry'sdaughter said...


I like your idea of just getting the writing done. You can always go back and edit once you get it all out. I think what you're doing is great. I have to say what you posted is lightyears better than the proposal draft I am wrestling with. I did an amazingly poor writing job! :)

I'll be curious to know what others think of the diagrams. When you draw them, does it in any way help your own thinking and analysis?


C said...

It's a proposal draft. I wouldn't beat myself up over the quality of a draft. Of a proposal.

The thing about the diagrams (and the scenes, too) is they were drawn either while I was in the field or soon after I left the site. Because I didn't know what the writing up stage would look like or how it would come together, I did my best to take very detailed notes of as many things as possible. For me this meant creating diagrams, if for no other reason than to remind me/spark my memory.

Also, I thought the diagrams would be pertinent even before I entered the field to do my observations b/c I knew from experience that most coaches tell their student-athletes to always sit in the front row of class. This is true of my subjects and their Coach. But I didn't want to say "Coach told them to sit in the front. They are sitting in the front." Instead, and this goes along with my method of writing, I wanted to *show* their positioning and then, later, explain why they were in the front.

For me the diagrams are about "showing" vis-a-vis "telling." I.e. instead of *telling* my readers they can, hopefully, see it how I saw it. Telling doesn't allow for this. That's my vision of the diagrams...

Billie said...

Diagrams can be really helpful in a work such as the one you are constructing, Chris. (You know that I've used a ton of 'em.) Sometimes seeing the layout of a room, for example, allows the reader to position her/himself in the space, too. The reader can see the proxmity of the student to the instructor, for instance. It can show the size of the room (if dimensions are included).

Additionally, if you are writing about Johnny sitting in the front of the room, but he's actually on the second row, and he goofing around with Suzie who is sitting on the fourth row across the room, the reader has a sense of how much space is between them (and how that space/interaction could benefit or detract from learning happening).

Having a diagram like this one can come in handy later on as you begin to write about pedagogy or whatever your next point is. You can refer back to that diagram.

Long way of stating: diagrams rock!