How do you convert a jumble of observations into an ethnographic essay that offers an interesting and useful interpretative analysis of gaming cultures?
Late policy: Because completion of this assignment is required to pass the class, you may upload the assignment late until the final day of week 11. Every two days that the fieldnote assignment is late, I will deduct a letter grade portion from your maximum possible grade for the assignment (e.g., 4-5 days late = max possible grade B+; 6-7 days late = max possible grade B). Those wishing to receive an extension should contact me in advance, with clear reasons for needing an extension.
For this assignment, you will undertake ethnographic research at your chosen site over the course of at least three separate time periods. In order to complete this task, you will need to record your observations by writing both scratch notes and fieldnotes. “Scratch notes” are the kinds of notes you produced today in your practice observation activity. How do you convert a jumble of observations into an ethnographic essay that offers an interesting and useful interpretative analysis of gaming cultures? This is the task that you will undertake throughout this research project.
Turn in a typed copy of your fieldnotes, which should be at least 5 double-spaced pages of text in length, unless you are including photographs/screenshots (often nice visual ways of capturing things), have lots of blank space due to transcribing interviews, or employ “creative spacing/font techniques.” In these cases your fieldnotes should be relatively longer than five pages. I essentially need to be convinced that you have done adequate research so far to be able to produce a good final paper. 5 full double-spaced pages of text is an arbitrary minimum length to convince me of that.
Fieldnotes are not scratch notes that you take while you are observing, but more digested notes that you “write up” after the observation period is over. I will be uploading examples of ideal fieldnotes to the course website.
First, you will need to decide the best method for recording your scratch notes. Would a computer work best for you? Or will you be in a location where using a computer might draw more attention to yourself? Does using the Double-Entry Format (which we practiced today in class) work well for you? If you are conducting your observations in a virtual world, it may be useful to experiment with various forms of notetaking to see which suits you best.
During your observations, practice taking copious notes on:
the physical setting, either virtual or actual, or both (rich adjective-laden details regarding the sights, sounds, and smells that you experience);
the characters present (see Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw’s suggestions regarding “characterization”)
your personal experiences and how you are part of the social environment (or not)
social interactions you witnessed or participated in (i.e., a conversation between two people); In recording this social interaction, experiment with recording dialogue as direct and indirect quotes.
After collecting these scratch notes, you will then have to compile them into a more condensed form of fieldnotes, which is what you will be turning in to me. Write a descriptive account of what you observed taking place at your chosen gaming site. Clearly, you cannot include everything, and will have to make judgments about what is significant and why—in this sense, your description will also be a subjective interpretation. Describe any patterns you may have detected—e.g., how people move, cluster, talk, gesture, express themselves, etc. Use examples from your scratch notes to illustrate and support what you say in your fieldnotes. Provide enough context for each example that it can be understood by your reader, who was not there with you at the time.
Knowing what is important to include in your fieldnotes can be challenging, but realize that there isn’t an objectively “right” way to go about doing this. It really all depends on your own experiences and how you are best able to record them in a systematic way. “Writing up” your fieldnotes is an integral part of moving from the jumble of scratch note data to useful data that you can draw from for writing your final ethnographic paper later in the quarter. Good fieldnotes will be the foundation for a good paper, and will make the writing of your paper much easier.
General Guidelines & Suggestions for Ethnographic Research:
Your research needs to be in a location where there are social interactions, so don’t choose physical or virtual sites in which there are no rich social interactions taking place!
For the purposes of this class, taking notes on one or two people playing, for example, Call of Duty in their home is not a valid research project. It just doesn’t lend very rich material, as past student research projects have demonstrated to me. You will have to be especially convincing that your approach is unique for me to justify a research project that investigates sites that contain insipid or little social interaction between humans.
Sit, observe, and scribble notes on what you see. It is good to warm up on observations about the setting, time of day, sounds you hear, general atmosphere, number of people, etc. Then focus your attention on people, especially their interactions.
Pay attention to details, so you can remember them later. Not: “A man and woman are talking to each other.” Rather: “Two people, one man, one woman, early 20s (?), sitting at a table, closely to each other. He’s wearing jeans, white T-shirt; she’s in jeans, a blue sweater, and scarf. The girl talks, touches her hair, guy looks at his coffee cup, she says something, he looks up.”
If in public areas you are asked about what you are doing, explain that you are working on an assignment for a course at the University of Washington. If you sense that you are making anyone uncomfortable by taking notes, adjust your behavior accordingly (i.e., by stowing your notebook for a time or leaving the facility to come back at a later time). If you are asked to leave, you must leave.
In writing your description, include basic information about what you observed—where, when, etc. Select from your notes a few interactions you observed and describe them as precisely as possible.
You will probably find yourself interpreting what you see. This is probably a familiar setting, after all, and you can’t help but “read” what you see around you. It’s ok to write down some interpretations as well. (For example: “I think they are on a date, but don’t know each other well yet.” “He looks annoyed.” “I think he is the father of those kids—no mom with them—I wonder where she is?” “She looks wealthy—lots of nice clothes and jewelry.”) Pay attention to the details that incline you to certain observations. But try to keep your interpretations separate from your observations.
Remember that while it is probably impossible to be entirely “un-ethnocentric,” you should be aware of your own biases and prejudices. Approach your field site as if it were a completely valid site that has its own logics, cultural norms, and behaviors. This assignment is not an opportunity for you to go to an “other” location to judge people and their behaviors or interpret them as being “unhealthy,” “strange,” or even worse, “exotic.” Fieldnotes that reflect an overtly ethnocentric attitude that is unacknowledged will be marked down.
@Fieldnote examples from past classes@
I logged into Lord of the Rings online once again and was right outside of the Town of Bree’s west entrance. As I walked in I was passed by other players on horses. Near the stable master there were 3 idle characters. One of the idle characters, being an elf, got onto his horse, faced the other people, strafed his horse left and right, and then took off east up the street toward the Prancing Pony. I looked around and notice there was a lot of traffic of people running and ridding pass me. Most were coming from outside of the town and continued on into the middle of the town. Others stopped in the middle of the road and remained idle for a while or moved to the side where the mail box was and were standing idle. I noticed a dwarf named Thrandrain, a level 17 rune keeper, jumping around on a stone wall, onto a fountain, over an npc, and then stopped at the mail box where he just stood still and then logged off. I observed another person jumping from wall to wall, over a barrel, a wooden fence, even a vender stall, where he stopped and talked to the npc armor salesman. It was like parkour in a way.
I ran passed him and through the boar fountain/market circle area that I mentioned in my earlier fieldnotes, where I saw yet another person who had just jumped over a stone wall. He was a level 22 gaurdian dwarf named Poundonme. He jumped up and down on the street in place. At first I thought it was because of my presence but I soon realized that wasn’t the case when an elf hunter, the same level as him, came up from behind and started to follow him.
They ran north past the prancing pony inn, and then followed the road west back to the west entrance of Bree. They left Bree through a smaller entrance north of the main west entrance and headed into the fields north of the town. As they did the dwarf attacked a bear and the elf helped defeat the surprised creature. After they had slain the level 18 bear, the dwarf waited for the elf while she started to mine some copper ore. They both continued through some woods to a cabin, killing bears and wolfs, until they reached a small cabin on a hill where an NPC with a quest was standing. They stood idle for a while, as if they were reading the quest notes and objectives and then took off. I noticed they were wearing the same cape and were part of the same kin. They ran everywhere together. Taking turns mining ore, killing anything they could on the way. The whole time they didn’t say anything. At least not in the “say” channel, which makes me believe that they were in a fellowship together and using the fellowship chat. A fellowship is a group of 2-6 people who share experience and loot from creatures they kill. I followed these 2 for 20 minutes and watched them as they killed, mined, and stopped at quest giving NPCs.
While all of the above was going on, someone by the name of Eolena asked in the [Advice] channel.
Eolena: “I was considering investigating in a moster play character, to mix it up a little bit,” “I’m thinking that I’d like to get either one of the stalkers or the spiders”
Punsa: “Good plan. Moster play is fun.”
Eolena: “but someone told me that the spiders can’t solo very well,” “do stalkers do a decent amount of damage, ebough to allow them to solo? or spiders? if I were to solo, which would be the best choice?”
Marialwarrior: “Well stalkers are good to start with,” “Stalkers are like burgs.”
Eolena: “Can’t say I’ve ever played a burg”
Marialwarrior: “Damange from stealth, good instant damage”
Eolena: “I’m still pretty new to the game, to be honest”
Marialwarrior: “And very good if you’re the cowardly type”
Nidgar: “don’t expect to be soloing much at all… especially at low levels”
Eolena: “hahahahaha… cowardly”
Martialwarrior: “stealth so the pros don’t see you, sprint so you can run at the first sign fo danger”
Eolena: “sooo… the spiders can’t solo?”
Martialwarrior: “oh and soloing as a monster is the same as suicide if you’re not high ranked”
Eolena: “I know they’re the monster equivalent of support”
Martialwarrior: “Not just spiders. ANY MONSTER”
Eolena: “I’m not really familiar with how it works, honestly.”
Martialwarrior: “Monsters are weak for their level”
Xclutch: “they can pretty well actually, my favorite monster I spider because its kind of like an lm” (lm=lormaster=wizard) “sacrifice your own pet spiders to give you health when needed :)”
Martialwarrior: “It’s like you playing , lets say, a brigand in bree,” “you die a lot, everyone can kill you, only groups can win”
Bugacar: “so basically you always lose?”
Martialwarrior: “If you’re low rank and groupless, yes”
Eolena: “I’m playing a LM right now xD”
Mabewing: “me to, I wish LM did more damage”
Martialwarrior: “You know the reaver is F2P now, right? Go play one to get the hang of moster play, then choose your favorite monster class”
In Lord of the Rings Online, there are two modes of play. The first and main mode is the freep play (free persons), and monster play, where you can play as an evil character such as a spider, orc, goblin, and warg. In the conversation Eolena is new to the game and is thinking of trying monster play. She can’t decide on what kind of evil character she wants to play, so she asks in the game’s [Advice] channel her question, hoping that anyone will answer. As you read above a few people answered and shared their opinions, something that they didn’t have to do, but did anyways just to be helpful.
Continuing on, I returned to Bree Town. Again there were a lot of people at the main entrance, either standing idle by the mailbox, stable master, or in the middle of the road after they had used the “swift travel” feature from another land. Two people were jumping around. Up and down, over the stone wall, on the stone wall, off the stone wall onto a wooden fence. Pretty much anywhere as they made their way through the city. I headed towards the auction house, where I passed idle players, and people running or passing by. All the while there were a few people in the [LLF] (looking for fellowship) chat channel, briefly stating how many people they had in their fellowship already, what kind of classes they needed, and what quest they were going to do. Example:
[LFF] Nierol: ‘5/6 for GB RUN: Sambrog…. looking to run at Level 49’
When I arrived at the auction house, which is adjacent to the east gate, I noticed a player who was “AFK” named Yorkiddingme, lying in the middle of the road in front of the east entrance. People passing by took notice to him and would stop for a second, look at him, and then move on. At first I thought he had purposefully typed in the “faint” emote and fainted in the middle of the road before he left his keyboard, but then I realized that because of Halloween, there was a festival going on where people could earn and win prizes that had special effects on other players. One item or skill that a player could earn from the festival had the ability to make another faint on command. Throughout my observing I noticed people that were standing idle randomly faint because of another person who had the skill or item that caused this used it on them. This includes me as well. This may be the reason why he had been randomly lying in the road. Another special festival thing, and I hate to use the word thing, was the new “BOO!” expression, where a player would yell “BOO!,” hold their hands in front and twinkle their fingers back and forth. I saw the emote being used a lot on everyone by everyone.
I entered the auction house and saw a large amount of people huddled around and below the auctioneers and few people around the mailboxes. Occasionally a person would run from the auctioneer to the mailbox, and vise versa. All in all, things in the auction house were the same as before during my first field notes assignment.
I exited the auction house and turned right to the adjacent east gate. There still were a lot of people near the mailbox and stable master. One elf player was jumping around, onto the wooden fence, over it, and other things. One player, also an elf, shot some fireworks into the sky above the 4-6 person crowd at the east entrance.
I made my way back up to the prancing pony where I found 6 players standing around. A female human minstrel performed her power amongst the crowd. Then a man champion swung his sword. One level 20 minstrel by the named of Forvaril, came into scene and started playing music on a lute. She was playing very well. Others took notice to the music. She then stopped playing mid-song, and ran into the Prancing Pony Inn. The crowd was motionless, except for the occasional person to run off to do who knows what. Others rode and ran by. I waited to see what would happen next. Forvaril then came out of the inn, and started to play her music again amongst the crowd that had grown larger over that past two minutes. Some people making their way by stopped for a moment and listened before they continued on, others faced her as they continued to walk by. She notices the people who stop to listen and faced them. She then switched from playing to lute to a horn and played the Super Mario theme song. One man listened for a bit then did the “cheer” emote before he left. Forvaril stopped playing after a while and ran off. A few moments later a hobbit by the name of Scramfret Oddpluck pulled out his lute and started to play classical music. Others walking by went out of their way to stand by him and listen for a bit. A male elf started to perform a jig nearby. While he played music, a kinship announced, “Come Trick or Treat tonight 9pm to 11pm CST at the Fellowship of the Rogues Kin House! 8 Long Street, Salwold housing in Breeland! No costume, or mask, no treat! All are invited!” After reading this I decided to go and see what was going on at the kinship’s house.
I arrived at the house and was greeted by 7 kinship members. All had different masks on. One guy was wearing a pumpkin mask, another was wearing a funny hobo mask, and some other man was wearing a dress. They were all dressed up for Halloween. The man in the mask said “Tick for a treat.” So I performed a skill that my character had learned earlier, and made all of them sneeze. Instantly after I was asked to trade. They offered me 20 barrow-iron ingots, a very generous gift, which I declined but kindly thanked him for. I decided to sit off the side and observe them. They were playing music, and performing many emotes. There was always one person dancing to the music of the person playing. Every minute or so, some player who had also read the message came and dropped by. Each visitor was asked to perform a trick for a treat, which he and her did. After they had received their treat they would stay for a while and mingle with the kin and everyone else before scattering off to do who knows what. Emotes were being performed at a constant. Emotes, such as slap, laugh, dance, tickle, back flip, cry, yell, BOO, wave, and so on. Everyone was also enjoying their new emotes and tricks that they received from the fall festival.
I decided to return to the town of Bree. Again, tricks were constantly being performed by everyone. A lot of the time I was the victim. This one instance, someone played a trick on me, causing my character to faint, then an onlooker to use the cry emote before running off. More people were playing music, and others were dancing. I noticed more people jumping around. At the east gate I noticed a hooded man, who was a burglar, jumping on the town wall, trying to jump onto the gate towers. He continued to jump around and tried to make it on one of the towers, but he had fallen off. I noticed more idle people around the stable master and mailbox, and another person who fainted and was just lying on the ground.
|Academic Level||College (1-2 years: Freshmen, Sophomore)|
|Number of Pages||5 Page(s)/1375 words|