Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fieldwork: Passive Observation and The Map Plotting Process

            The suburban environment corresponds with the characteristics of print media as an object of communication. My sightings of the print media flyers have been in various suburban locations along major roadways in Newark, Delaware USA. The Newark roadways do have sidewalks for foot and bike travel, but the area is more motor vehicle oriented. The suburban environment is significant toward my introduction of the type of fieldwork I implemented for the collecting process of the Recently Seen in Area Collection. This second blog post for the Recently Seen in Area Collection depicts my fieldwork in a public suburban environment and using material culture methods in a collecting process.
            Within a two-year time period, I have passively observed the locations of the flyers, while being idle in my car at traffic lights. From this perspective, I observed the modification of four different styles of print media flyers and the alterations of them from the elements in the public realm. In addition, my view from my car influenced this short-term project to examine the flyers from an object perspective instead of the personal story of a person’s missing dog communicated from the flyers.
Sample: 2012 Print Media
My very first observations were the predominately red and yellow flyers with the inset image of a close-up of the lost dog’s face. Within the first year, there was a sparse posting of blue and yellow flyers. The 2014 harsh winter elements removed or faded the majority of the original style flyers. This spring is approximately the second year of seeing the print media flyer and a new yellow, black, and red flyer posted along the roadways. My sighting of this newest version of the flyer began the plotting of the locations.
During the first two weeks of the collecting process, I began written field notes and expanded my observations by driving through the greater suburban areas of Newark. These written field notes were referenced and added to, as needed, during the entire 2 months of plotting of the locations of the flyers. My car was a means for travel, which enabled me to plot the locations of the print media flyers. In addition, the car is part of a broader concept of how the suburban environment is observed from the roadways.
Since driving or riding in a car presents limited ability for a person to be physically interactive with the suburban environment, this arrangement connects with the main use of the human sense of sight acquainted with print media culture. Print culture is a passive or high information content mode of communication,[1] which corresponds with the traffic flow on intersections of roadway. The use of the design elements of bold colors and block type for the print media flyers heighten the visual awareness, especially being posted on metal poles and metal traffic signal controller boxes.  
Observation from my car was one of the methods in my fieldwork for the collecting process of the Recently Seen in Area Collection. My weekly travels to the locations kept my notes current. This method contributed plotting the flyer locations in a timely process for the initial stages of the project, while scouting for parking locations to begin my video studies. 
Sample from written field notes June 2014

[1] Nick Stevenson, Understanding Media Cultures (London, Sage Publications, 1995), 117 - 120

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