Moving to China to do research! Will be blogging my year on!

Good day world! it’s finally happening! I’m moving to China to do my research! wooohoo!

So I’m moving to China to do my research, and then coming back to write something that I hope to buddha doesn’t kill my soul to write creative non-fiction. (here’s some more details about my research). I have a post on my personal blog about all the things and people that I will miss so dearly.

So in addition to doing my research, I’ll be posting daily observations on Bytes of China. I’m making a committment to post a little thought every other day. One, this let’s friends know that I’m alive, and second when I’m writing up my fieldnotes every month I would love to see over time what observations I chose to make public. While I plan to keep 99% of notes just for my eyes, there’s something very lovely about posting a short blog post that will be immediately read. It keeps me connected to the real world - otherwise I would get lost in my thoughts and forget that I have a responsbility to carry out when I return from the field - a responsibilty to translate what I see into greater understanding.

New RSS Feeds!

And for people who use RSS readers - I’ve combined all my blogs into ONE feed (using yahoo pipes). I created one feed just for research blogs and another feed for all blogs. You can find all the rss feeds at the bottom of my website.

A New Vision for Field Work

I’m trying to re-envision what fieldwork will look like for me in China for the next year. Every past fieldwork trip for me in India, Mexico, US, or China has been under 3 months - which meant that I always working 15 hours a day minimum.

But now that I will be in one place for a year, I want to re-envision what does emotionally and physically sustainable ethnography look like in a fieldsite that never seems to sleep? I’ll be hanging out with a variety of groups from people who work at night to people who work 15 plus hours a day. How can I be everywhere - how can I see everything - how can I document it all -without wearing myself down physically or mentally?

I’ve come to the conclusion that in order for me to do great fieldwork I must be fully present. This past summer I learned that being fully present starts with sleeping, eating, and dancing. I know it sounds simple - but it’s taken a while to get here. Thich Nhat Hahn’s quote on being present for your loved ones is actually very relevant for ethnography.

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.

In ethnography and qualitative how-to books, they don’t really emphasize how the ethnographer’s energy can affect the types of observations that are gleaned from the fieldsite.  But I think it’s actually super important to think about how to keep yourself super balanced.  Does anyone have any tips? I would love hear them! Some ideas for taking healthy breaks from my field site:

  • I won’t be near any dance studios in China, so I will have to make time everyday to turn on the music and blast it out!
  • I also was thinking that it would be good to take 1 week off every month just to reflect.

Here are some important things for the fieldsite that I will packing:

I’m super big on brainstorming so I’m bought 4 of these white board dry-erase contact sheets from Go Write! on Amazon. I plan to transform my entire office into a dry erase heaven.

And of course I will be bringing box loads of Ssicky notes! this is beyond important.

I don’t like the idea of having to always pull out of my cellphone to look at the time when I’m hanging out in the field.  But I also hate the idea of wearing a watch - I find them ugly and annoying.  And watch jewelry is usually too pretty and shiny to wear in the fielsite.

But then I found this awesome robot necklace watch that wasn’t shiny but stylish at the same time - I thought this was a very appropriate for the field.




Bunny and panda texting

Nail polish art  - this will be a great conversation starter in the field!  I will turn my nails into bunnies and other fun animals.



Thieves hand sanitizer - very imporatant - non-toxic, no alcohol, and no preservatives. it’s my goal it NEVER get sick. I am not a clean freak but there will be times when it will be difficult to find running water for days at a time  - esp in the rural areas. So this will be life saver!


I bought four 2TB external Western Digital drives and one 1.5 TB portable external drive. You never know what will happen to your data -  I’m preparing for my digital data to disappear at all times. I’m leaving two drives in two different locations in the US, and two others in two different locations in China. The portable drive I will always have on me or in my apt.


I have always treated encryption as something that just slows down someone who really wants to get to your data. But I do care about ensuring that the info for my informants are subjected to the best data protection I can personally enforce. So I will be storing all my contact data on an iphone - it’s pretty much the most secure mobile device out there after all the research I’ve done and it has remote wipe. Blackberry is secure too, but it doesn’t have a camera or a good app store! And android mobiles are no where near secure enough. Geeky Scmidt provides an excellent review of the most popular cellphones and their encryption plans (btw his blog is awesome!)

  1. iOS – Encrypts the storage and allows developers to access the crypto library
  2. Blackberry – Encrypts enough that countries around the world are putting pressure on RIM
  3. Windows Mobile 6.5 – Encrypts storage and allows access through .Net
  4. Symbian – Nope
  5. Android – Nope
  6. Meego – Nope
  7. WebOS – Nope
  8. Windows Phone 7 – Nope