Well, Brigitte and I did fieldwork for the final stages of our research tonight.
While we’ve conducted research in the Gay areas of Toronto and Buffalo, and the Straight Area’s of Buffalo, tonight was the first dry run for any of the Gay Areas in Buffalo, NY. It proved on one hand quite the challenge (far different from the Toronto Gay scene which was far more open), on the other hand, it yielded incredibly accurate data, so it was worth it.
While there were numerous questions that were no doubt interesting on the survey, what we were actually looking to answer was only two overall questions (which we’re calling hits): the first that measured proximity and then second, the ability to correctly identify terminology as coming from one of two categories (I’m being deliberately obtuse here for reasons which will be apparent when the project is complete and comes out).
There were many questions inserted to divert attention, and they did the job correctly (and had the effects we desired and in fact, required), though in retrospect, in the future I will certainly rework how I do them. While they provided for accurate results, some of the stress that they created for the research team could have been beter alleviated (but, you learn as you go and as long as we were the only one’s that were stressed, we did our job properly).
This also marks the second Gay Bar where people thought I was straight. I’ll chalk that up to the fact that I was in work mode. I think that the hardest part of doing this kind of survey is having to go outside of the ivory towers, play stupid so you don’t have too much of an effect on the data, and then smile and nod for all criticism regardless of validity (the only way I can frame this is to give you the following scenario: you’re testing if car horns scare people, and at the end, your participant comes up to you and says ‘that scared me! you should change the survey so it doesn’t!’ – well…yes, it scared you…that was the point, so while an accurate criticism if I were studying something else, it doesn’t really apply to what I’m looking for).
I also had some people question how ‘simple’ the survey was (which was also deliberate, I didn’t require anyone’s weight on the moon) as well as say that it was stereotypically gay (which I found to be the most interesting criticism because it only asked for something stemming from the gay community once and that was asking if they were gay or not. No questions after the first question of “Gay” or “Straight” came from the Gay community). Most of the second criticism I believe extends from the assumption that the researcher team was straight and that is something we will certainly have to find a unique way to correct the next time around.
Of course I think back to Dr. Smyth’s work when he (as an openly Gay Linguist) was doing Queer Phonetic research and had someone walk out on him because he was ‘anti-gay’ or had gay people tell him pretty much the same criticisms I received tonight. The way I look at it, it really just makes me feel like part of the club. Sort of how I felt when I read my first spectrograph.
Part of the problem certainly comes from the fact that people get frustrated when they can’t read into (even with informed consent) what, small, feature we’re actually measuring and in the case of this survey, this is by far the most minute part of the whole thing; the meat of the research actually came from sources where we obtained the etymology of what we are looking for; as well as the fieldwork we did in Toronto and Buffalo already. If this were the most important part of the research, I wouldn’t be doing it last (important stuff always comes first, so you don’t run out of time).
However, I will certainly not only remember this experience, but take this into account for the future
It also gives me a whole lot more respect for my Aunt who’s a researcher (and who I worked for, for four years when I was with the Queens College Psychological Research Group). However, stressful as it was, it was also a successful night, the data was accurate. The project is almost done. I have a ton more work to do and it will be done, as soon as I do dishes and get out my Nip/Tuck DVDs and turn them on for background noise.
Off to crunch numbers!
Peace all =D