You never know what details may become important later, so record everything in painful detail — including data outside your immediate research goals.
"This kid, this really big kid, pointed at me from the other side of the field and started yellin’ somethin’. I figured I’d ignore him and keep walkin’, you know? A few seconds later, WHAM! That big kid tackled me from behind, and started kicking dirt in my face. I started chokin’. I tried to get up again, but he just shoved me back down." The youngster hid his face in his hands. "They laughed at me," he choked. "They all laughed."
I’d started my boxing club as a social experiment with very specific goals, and I hadn’t expected this. So I followed my instincts: I hugged him. I told him I went through the same thing before I learned boxing. I told him he wouldn’t always feel so helpless. I failed, however, to take any notes.
A year after beginning my research at Ashkuff’s Boxing Fitness, I wish I hadn’t limited myself to business research. Among other aspects, I wish I’d documented my students’ many experiences with bullying. Lately, popular media’s taken a stand against bullying — a sometimes naïve stand — and some ethnographic research could offer useful insights.
Take, for example, this Public Service Announcement (PSA) featuring Cartoon Network’s "The Dudes." On their show, Dude, What Would Happen, they pose hypotheticals and test them out. In this PSA, they advise children to turn their backs on attacking bullies, and "just calmly walk away." Reasonable as it sounds, however, this hypothetical forgets that bullies aren’t above tackling their victims from behind. And, as boxers know, getting struck from behind is dangerous business.
Based on personal experience and ethnographic research, I’m confident that this PSA offers some dangerous advice. However, my research isn’t thorough enough to jam down Cartoon Network’s throat. How could I have avoided this?
Simply, I should’ve taken more thorough notes. Even the best anthropologists never know what details may become important later, so remember to record everything in painful detail — including data outside your immediate research goals. In fact, I suggest trying to overdo it somewhat, and amass databases of notes, photos, video, and audio.
Have you ever squared off with a bully? How do you think they should be handled? Anthropologists: have you ever wished you could go back, and redo your research? Of course, any other thoughts are welcome, too. I put a lot of thought into these posts, and I sure do love it when people leave comments. Even short, stupid ones. So be awesome, and click here to say something. No registration nor email required. Yay, free speech!