August 13, 2013
By Maggie Borowitz, Intern at Field Museum
Green Voices is an anthropological research project on fast-forward. It’s a program for high school students to learn about the processes of ethnography and journalism: conducting fieldwork, analyzing data, running a blog, writing a news story, creating a public service announcement – all in six short weeks.
The Green Voices program has been a fast-paced ride examining the way that people in Chicago’s Pilsen and Bronzeville communities use green spaces. We started out with a series of workshops which introduced the youth to new skills that would come in handy just a few days later when they began conducting their own interviews and focus groups and performing participant observation around their neighborhoods. We discussed the planning process of formulating useful questions, the flexibility required during an interview, the leadership skills needed to facilitate discussion during a focus group, and the note taking skills needed to collect and preserve the data that would emerge.
Quickly, the Green Voices teams entered the next phase of actual data collection. The teams set up interviews with members of their communities, from their peers to community elders to community leaders, including their alderman. Along the way, they posted notes, photos, videos, and quotes to the blogs we had set up together. Blogging presented its own ethical challenges, introducing interesting conversations regarding consent. But it also provided a unique way for the teams to share information with one another and experience the blogosphere – for the first time for some, and for others simply from a new perspective.
Out of this data and the beginnings of critical thinking and analysis that began to take place in the context of the blogs, each of the teams created a research question that they wanted to focus on more closely. A range of topics emerged: improving safety in parks, engaging community members to help maintain cleaner parks, understanding the relationship between community members and the Chicago Park District, bridging the gap between generational differences in the use of green spaces. Together, the members of each team worked to convert their data into a format which would help them answer their research questions. Working off of the collection of blog posts that had accumulated, the teams identified trends and common threads among the perceptions and opinions of their community members.
And the product? This week the teams will present news articles they have co-authored in response to their research questions, as well as two public service announcements – their research and ruminations on their communities condensed into two 30 second narratives. And, of course, a new set of research, writing, blogging, videography, and leadership skills to carry with them.
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