private blogs for research

When discussing the role of a blog as a research tool people often assume that public field notes would work against the confidentiality of those being researched. This assumes however that blog posts are unfiltered thoughts which simply is not the case. Blog posts are constructed and filtered with the knowledge that an audience will read them. So blogging field notes is not the same as posting raw field notes. It is something quite unique and different, in that one must think about how the material will be received, who it can harm, etc…

But blogs can also be made private (a point I mentioned during the recent Media anthropology seminar on blogging as a research tool). Many teachers are using access controls to promote blogging between classmates. In this way students write not only for a teacher but for each other. It provides an environment to learn how to write to a broader audience and I’ve always found it incredibly helpful to hear how others are responding to the material.

My classmates and I are now using a private blog to discuss our field research. It’s providing a means to stay in touch while some of us are off “in the field”. It’s also a great way to get feedback on ideas that are too challenging to speak publicly about. I’m excited to see how the private blog develops, but already I am finding it useful to have a semi-private place to keep notes where I can be even more opinionated and controversial. I’m also finding it interesting to see how different levels of exposure [private, semi private, and public] change the way I take notes. I’ve so far done most of my note taking online.


4 responses to this post.

  1. I have a private blog set up for my intro students this fall. They won’t be around for two weeks but I am interested to see how its going to go. Its not a field work issue but more my desire to set up a community for them. I have day students, night students, and online students and I want to give them a place to meet. We community colleges people so lack any “hang-out” time and places. I thought I would try the virtual hang-out.

    So, I have fieldnotes from 1986-87–specifically, personal interviews. Most were about the topic of some anti-Colonial riots that happened in 1955–so almost everyone I interviewed has died (wow, that was hard to type, kind of sad). Anyway, I have been wondering about posting them. Do you have any thought (anyone?) about the ethics? I am asking everyone I can find. I would appreciate any thoughts. (No money for travel and seminar attendance right now)



  2. Terrifying question given Max’s recent comment on how the military is using scholarship to inform war.

    At the same time, I’m for an open, transparent, peace loving, hippie inspired, world where everyone makes love and no war. Responding to Max, I argued that sharing knowledge levels the playing field in that it gives everyone a chance to learn from it [good or bad].

    Now that they are mostly dead and gone, I’d say bring them on out, or possibly test them out with some other friends first to see how much they can identify from them that might be harmful? [A kind of peer review for doing-no-harm and supporting no military?]

    Definitely a tough question!!!


  3. Pam, ultimately no blog is private. This is an illusion we create for ourselves to make things easier to digest — once it is on housed on someone’s server and transmitted online, it is just mostly private.

    Hey Owen, how do you like my new paranoid phase? By the way, looking at the timestamps on these posts, I figured out that you live in Greenwich, UK — lucky devil, put the kettle on, let’s have some tea.


  4. […] wonders if she should publish old interviews […]


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