I have only visited the city of Baltimore, Maryland for certain reasons. None of those reasons were to conduct anthropological fieldwork. Equipped with only a video camera and my ‘OBaltimore’ project packet I set off on my first fieldwork experience. I hoped that Sunday, October 11, 2009 would be the best day to conduct my research since I would be in Baltimore that day anyway to volunteer for Sharp-Ledenhall. The day was finally upon me, the sun was shinning, it was a perfect fall day, and the Ravens were playing at home against their division rival, the Cincinnati Bengals. I figured everyone would be in good spirits and more eager to give an interview.
When I arrived at the volunteer site around 8:30am the other volunteers and I were greeted by residents of the Sharp-Ledenhall neighborhood. Throughout all the days work I tried to have a conversation with each resident to gain insight on who might have more knowledge about the questions I planned on asking, who fit the qualifications I was looking for in an informant, and who would be willing to give an interview. I soon realized that the interview would have to wait until after one o’clock, after the Ravens game started. After the game had started I lost a few potential interviews which was disappointing but ended up meeting a man named Lyn. He was born in Virginia but has been living in Baltimore for over twenty years. While talking to him I knew he would prove to be a valuable informant. The only problem was getting him to stop talking. During our conversation I learned that we shared a common passion for the law. He used to be a lawyer for the state of Maryland and I want to go to law school. By finding a common interest I was able to connect with Lyn on a more personal level. Once I got him talking it was hard to get him to stop without seeming rude. Fortunately I was able to diverge the conversation towards the classes I was taking at Towson University and a project I have to do for my Cultural Anthropology class. He was more than happy to do the interview and answer the questions I had for him. He seemed excited at the thought of having a video with him in it on the internet. I hope that he spoke loud enough because the speakers on the video recorder do not pick up sound well. To counter this I conducted the interview in a more quiet spot and held the recorder closer to the speaker. I really enjoyed completing this assignment. Actually going out and experiencing a type anthropological fieldwork was a lot of fun. The only aspect I wish that was different was the questions. This assignment could have been more challenging if we had to make up the questions.
When the O’Baltimore project was assigned, I was excited to find my potential prospects and get started on the interviews. For a couple weeks, I contemplated where I would find good candidates for the interviews. This is when I became a bit worried I would not find someone willing to do a videotaped interview. After the initial excitement to do actual fieldwork, I became nervous because I did not know where to begin! I did not know how to approach someone, requesting to videotape and post his or her videos. I must say, I am not a shy person, so in the beginning I figured I would handle the situation easily. However, the whole videotaping through me off a little. In addition to videotaping an individual, I was required to ask questions about President Obama, which can be quite the controversial topic. Another challenge to this assignment was that I am not super familiar with Baltimore. Although I am a Marylander, I am from the Eastern Shore, which is completely different from Baltimore. I was scared to venture into Baltimore alone and ask people for interviews.
So the search began for my O’Baltimore prospect! First, I took the easier route and called my mom for some help. My mom actually works in Baltimore and so I asked her if any of her coworkers that are from Baltimore would be willing to do an interview. She asked around and a few said yes they would gladly do an interview. The next task was to figure out a way to get in to the city and meet my mom. We thought we had it all figured out, but the day I had planned to go it rained, of course. Luckily, I had a backup plan.
That Sunday I had planned to volunteer at the Sharp Leaden Hall concession stand for a few hours. Once the interviews at my mom’s work failed, I just decided to focus on interviewing some of the members of the Sharp Leaden Hall community. This actually worked out great! After spending a few hours handing out freshly grilled Italian sausages, burgers and hot dogs, I became close to these community members. I felt like this was the prime opportunity for some interviews with local Baltimoreans. After all, I was not as nervous to approach them since we had spent part of the morning together and they all knew we were Towson students.
I asked two older women who had been participating at the concession stand if I could interview them and I explained the circumstances. They asked me if they could do it together. I said yes of course and we began the interviews. It was interesting to hear their responses and acknowledge what they value in life. Although one woman was quiet, I still believe the interview was successful. I am glad I completed this assignment because it opened my eyes to what Anthropological fieldwork consists of, and I definitely enjoyed the experience.
For my piece of the Obaltimore research, I chose to interview a custodian member in my on campus dorm. I decided to interview her because she seems to be interesting, has a lot to say about the goings on in the building, and is always polite. I found her taking a short break inside one of our quiet study rooms. I went in and asked if I could interview her, explaining the project and what she’d have to do. She seemed hesitant at first, but once I explained that many people are being interviewed and it was going to be posted along with other people’s interviews, she seemed interested in answering the questions. We sat down, and she asked how her hair looked once I pulled out the flip camera. I tried to make it a casual and informal setting, this way she would hopefully feel comfortable answering the questions honestly and without withholding. Once we started the interview, however, I found it hard to get her to speak for more than a few seconds on a question. I attempted to prompt her by suggesting key phrases or ideas relating to the questions, and that seemed to help. She was easy going and willing to cooperate although she was not as chatty as usual. Once the interview was finished we watched the video playback together and I thanked her again for her time. She seemed interested in checking out the website.
From completing this assignment, I have actually learned a lot about the field of anthropology. First off, my printer decided to die the morning of this interview, which meant that I had to handwrite all the information to give to the person I interviewed, AKA I’ve learned that interviewing and fieldwork often has to happen on the fly. You have to learn to work with what you’re given, different scenarios will arise, etc etc. After tackling that mound, my next battle was making the interview as easy as possible. I find that anyone being interviewed has a concern with what kinds of questions are being asked, why you’re asking these questions, who you are… the list goes on and on. Participants want some kind of clarification of your authority, yet will most likely only comply with your requests if you can relate to them on some level. So how do you find the balance between collecting information and being a friend? It was a small struggle for me, and was slightly unnerving. It did, however, make me feel more comfortable that I was in my building and it was with someone I was somewhat familiar with. Another hitch was that because of her job, and concern with her boss seeing the interview, she was not comfortable with giving out her contact information. There again arises the concern of procedures and formalities vs. real life and a sense of comfort. But in the end you are thankful for the interview and the information gathered; you can’t force a participant out of their comfort zone. I am glad I got the chance to partake in such an interesting and current study, it was an experience I didn’t expect yet enjoyed and learned from.
When Dr. Durington first announced the media methods research project, I was a little skeptical. Being submerged into city life is still new to me, and I know Baltimore is not the safest place in world to walk up to a random person and start drilling them about the president. Just the thought of putting myself in a potentially awkward situation stresses me out, so I knew this assignment was going to be a challenge mentally.
On October 25, 2009 I worked up the nerve to find someone to interview. Because I don’t have a car, I decided that my best option would be to conduct the research in the Towson area. My first stop was at a bus stop on York road. Unfortunately, the only feedback I got from this group of public transit users was a few grunts, adverted eyes, and an awkward silence. None of the riders were willing to take five minutes out of their wait to talk to the camera. Embarrassed, I continued my journey until I came to a man walking his dog. I had not even finished introducing myself to him when he cut me off. He informed me that he had somewhere he had to be, and could not be slowed down to interview at that moment.
Upset and discouraged, I decided to take a break in my favorite record store, Celebrated Summer Records. This record store is no more than a hole in the wall, hidden in the back of a comic store on York Road. As I was sifting through a few albums, it occurred to me that Tony might be willing to let me interview him. A huge relief spread through me as I realized the awkward situations brought on by this project were finally over. I had a great time interviewing Tony, although he was not the most politically opinionated of people. Mostly, Tony spoke of how he hates talking to cameras, how sometimes his eye wanders, and how he is probably the most awkward person in the world to interview (I probably have him beat). Tony made me laugh by saying if he could ask Obama anything, he would ask to go bowling with him before the White House bowling alley gets taken out. I learned from this project that interviewing people can be nerve wracking, but you may meet wonderful individuals in the process that you may not have considered speaking to otherwise.
Going out into the field and interviewing a resident of Baltimore is a socially engaging task that has broadened my perspectives in a variety of ways. I went with a friend to the neighborhood of Hampden in order to interview a resident to gain an understanding of their views regarding the election of President Obama. I found that, when I got to Hampden and prepared to interview someone on the street, it was very difficult to actually just walk up to someone and approach them. Everyone seemed to be in their own little worlds with little desire to be bothered for an interview. The sun was going down and the pressure was on. Luckily, we ran across a very friendly and interactive man who was willing to answer some of my questions. The experience overall showed me that it doesn’t have to be a difficult and daunting task to engage a stranger in conversation. Rather, it can be good to broaden one’s horizons and interact outside of one’s immediate social circle. This fieldwork experience also has shown me how useful the medium of film is in the field of anthropology. After filming my interviewee, I observed that, in the act of catching the individual on camera, one can gain a greater understanding of an individual’s genuine feelings and reactions to questions that would not normally be appreciated in a context other than film. I have seen how engaging and representative of true life the visual media can be in the conducting of anthropological fieldwork. I appreciate having the opportunity to interact with the community at large, especially through the use of the visual media in this context.
For the OBAltimore media project for Dr. Duringtons class we were instructed to conduct an interview with a Baltimore resident and ask them questions about the election of president Obama. For my interview I drove downtown and proceeded to look for a good and promising location to conduct my interview. Due to the unfortunate bad weather I decided to rule out outside locations that I had previously envisioned. I then settled for a seemingly busy liquor store.
After two people said no to my interview one man named Robert offered to let me interview him. Conducting an interview like this was something I had no experience in doing. In fact it was something completely out of my comfort zone. Once we began the interview itself ran rather smoothly.
Aside from the supplied questions we were given my interviewee added his own comments about the five additional black presidents we have allegedly had prior to the election of president Barrack Obama. Although I have never heard of any such thing as five other black presidents including one named James, he seemed rather sure that his information was correct.
Overall I felt that this project was a great learning experience, one that provided me with the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and into that of an anthropologist in the field. I really hope that this project will be continued for future cultural anthropology students in the semesters to come.
The O’Baltimore Project really surprised me that we were expected to do an actual fieldwork assignment. I was worried about being in Baltimore and conducting an interview process with someone I have never met before. For one, I do not particularly like being in Baltimore, since I am by no means used to city life. I am from a very rural town and doing something like this was a first. This, as well as my internship has been a great experience for me to really open my mind, and take things for what they are instead of placing judgments on unfamiliar situations.
My internship is on West Baltimore Street, at the New Hope Treatment Center, a part of Bon Secours Hospital. The area is not the best, but I knew it would be a wonderful experience for me to jump outside of my box. While working at this treatment center, I have spent a lot of time working side by side with someone who has really inspired me. I actually chose to interview her since I knew just how huge of a fan she truly was of President Obama, and knowing she lives in Baltimore allowed her to fit the criteria.
It took me some time to actually ask her to see if she would mind me interviewing her. She was actually very anxious to do this for me and help me out with my schoolwork. Especially since she was a fan of President Obama, full heartedly and was more than eager to get a chance to speak about him. She was even more thrilled to know that her video was being placed on the internet, where she as well as others could watch it. She is a wonderful lady who really knows her stuff about President Obama and all of his plans, as well as the impact he has on her life. She really made me realize that I should give more effort to learn about President Obama’s plans because they can truly affect my life. I want to grow from this experience and learn that doing things I am not always comfortable can really allow me to grow and open my eyes up to new experiences I will enjoy.