Monday we learned about becoming participant observers. First, we need to watch people around us. That’s the observation part. Next, we become part of the interaction we are observing, whether it be a party or a classroom setting. We need to focus on learning by participating. It doesn’t matter if we don’t know exactly what’s going on around us, we can learn as we go. We can learn from those around us by watching what they do and copying them.
I think this will be a crucial skill for me to learn. I know I said this about interviewing as well because it will be important, but participant observation will be very important to my study. I say this because I want to study five or six families. I want to interact with them and their meal planning. I want to shop with them. I want to cook with them. I want to eat with them. All along the way I will be asking questions, but I think that a lot of my information on the foods they eat and how they procure them will come from the time I spend with them.
From all these interactions I can take valuable notes, which will help me organize my thoughts into comprehensible information.
I don’t expect to just be able to spend so much time with them right away. I will need to get to know the families first. I may do this with participant observation as well. Maybe I’ll meet them at a social gathering or some other kind of occasion. If I’m participating in this occasion then I’ll be able to meet them easier and talk to them better than if I were simply observing off to the side. I don’t know if this will happen or work, but I think it’s worth thinking about before I get into the field.
In order to prepare for this, I should become more social. I can go to more parties and meet new people. This will help me to be less nervous around new people and that will hopefully greatly help me in the field. I can also read more on Tibetan customs so that I don’t offend anyone when I first meet them. Perhaps I should ask our Tibetan teacher more questions. He is a valuable resource that I should not take for granted.
So on the agenda for the next few days: be participant observer in a social situation and report on it; read more on Tibetan social norms.