Fieldnotes: Backwards compatible fieldnotes

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I've been going over some of my old fieldnotes as I've been preparing my book on deaf politics in Japan for publication. I did much of my work during 1996-2001 and my notes were written in ClarisWorks and NisusWriter on a PowerBook 230. Unfortunately, I'm finding that many of the notes in ClarisWorks are inaccessible -- I don't have a copy of AppleWorks on my machine. Some of my notes were even in a ClarisWorks database -- quite innovative I thought, but also now inaccessible.

I think this will be a growing problem for anthropologists. Back when I was at Yale, there was a famous field methods class taught by one of the great elders of the discipline. He would tell you how to write on waxed waterproof paper with waterproof inks -- just the thing for the deepest jungles of Indonesia.

Now that even the Yamomami have e-mail, anthropologists are dragging their laptops with them everywhere. And we're writing our fieldnotes using the tools we use to write our academic papers -- commercial word processors. But these programs have a limited lifespan. Even things we thought would never die -- WordPerfect for example -- are now in their slow death spiral.

This year, my notes are written in Microsoft Word. I'm very worried about the longevity of this product -- especially on the Mac platform. If I was smart, I'd convert them to RTF, but my problem is that I use Japanese mixed in with English and I've found RTF often mangles Japanese kanji characters.

Geeks will write in and tell me to write in TeX. I guess I could also write in HTLM/XML which will be a standard for a long time to come.... or maybe not.

Yes, AppleWorks is available on MacOSX, but only prebundled on certain machines (iMacs?), my PowerBook didn't come with it... Pages won't open it, telling me that it was written in an unsupported version of AppleWorks.


I have Apple Works. It was prebundled with my iBook. If you think you can e-mail them and I can convert them to plaintext easily, e-mail me.

(I know you don't know who the hell I am so why should you trust me . . . write me and I'll give you a reference who is a mutual friend/colleague.)

DataViz's MacLinkPlus can convert Clarisworks and AppleWorks to MS Word. I have used MacLink for years (I do not even have the current version) and it works very well. At this point, I have MS Word and Appleworks on my G4, so I seldom have need to translate any longer, but I also come across the occasional WordPerfect Documents (for PCs) that need to be converted.

As an aside, I just ordered an Acratech, partly based on your review.

Thanks guys! I've muddled through most of the notes, just opening them as raw text files. I've found the info I wanted, so I'm in the clear for now. I still don't know what to do about the long-term preservation of my notes. Maybe just export everything to PDF?

I hope you like the Acratech! Please let the folks there know you read my review. I think they hate me because I made some negative comments about the quick-release clamp and the Hasselblad 203FE. They were all very nice about it in the end.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on April 15, 2005 10:13 AM.

CareerAdvice: Writing your Curriculum Vitae (CV) was the previous entry in this blog.

Link: For Women in Sciences, Slow Progress in Academia is the next entry in this blog.

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