Fieldnotes: Software and other fieldtools

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We had an Ethnography and Social Theory colloquium today on the topic of organizational software for the field. Several graduate students and one of the senior faculty presented. Here are my very rough notes.

Allison Alexy's (Mac-based) suggestions for organizing your life / fieldnotes:

Professor William Kelly's (Windows) suggestions:

  • Biblioscape -- bibliographic database
  • Window's Explorer Plus -- file management
  • WhizFolders -- note taking and fieldnote database
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking -- speech recognition / transcription software, great for taking reading-notes, transcribing dictated fieldnotes, etc.

Gavin Whitelaw's field tips and solutions:

  • tupperware in the field -- for organizing/carrying gadgets (esp. post-9/11)
  • Mini-mini-tripod -- esp. for taping shows off streaming sites
  • Using your digital camera as a portable scanner / portable photocopier, taking photos of texts etc.
  • Quick-release for digital camera on tripod
  • Two small digital cameras -- one to work, and one as a backup; with large LCD preview/review screen (to show informants photos or to review on the train, etc.)
  • Portable USB or Firewire back-up drive -- to backup fieldnotes in the field, every night (alternately, use your iPod)
  • iPhoto / Portfolio / Lightroom, or other photo management software -- be sure to tag all your photos, but try to keep the number of keywords to a minimum, less than 30 if possible
  • Using digital camera as another form of fieldnotes -- take photos of everything and everything
  • TypePad -- personal and public blogging, personal/private blog as an easy way to clip articles, tag information, etc.
  • Take screenshots / print to PDF of any website you've seen and want to keep (since websites change constantly)

Other topics:

  • Cpen 20 - pen scanner, to scan documents on the fly
  • Solar power / AC-inverters for places without power
  • Copywrite note taking software
  • WordPress, Joomla, or MediaWiki -- content management systems -- blogging software that can be reused as fieldnote management
  • Zotero -- firefox extension that almost works like a bibliographic reference

My own suggestions:

  • Canon LIDE scanner -- small, lightweight scanner, easily bookbaggable
  • Sharp Zaurus -- small microportable computer, can easily get recharged

Feel free to post other suggestions as well!


Great list! I wish I had been there, but I will be trying out a few items on that list soon here in Tokyo!

I really like the DM-series Olympus voice recorders. I am getting a heavier-duty Zoom H4 soon, but for light and portable dictation and interview recording the Olympus is great. The design is a few years old, prices have come down a bit, the interface is easy and they are Mac-compatible!

I took the plunge on a HDD recorder/DVD burner too. I will update my thoughts on it once I get everything sorted out. It looks like it will be great way to record and edit television programs, and once on DVD should be easy enough to get the data into my desktop. They've made htem so that it is very difficult/impossible to connect a HDD recorder to an HD in your computer. Boo.

Very interesting stuff. It's great to see anthropologists who are embracing technology. There's not a whole lot of that going on in my department...

One item I keep on looking at the is AlphaSmart Neo. I would like to have access to an easy on text device, but it is a little pricey.

Thanks for the great list. A program I've recently discovered and think has great potential for fieldnote management is Evernote. Very flexible, able to do web clipping, highly searchable with easy filtering and cross-referencing of keywords.

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on January 22, 2007 12:44 PM.

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