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Five teams of students that intensely studied one of a diverse range of groups in the area — a church, a Sikh community, a senior citizens home, “extreme sports” competitors, and rodeos — will show video reports today.

Under the guidance of Dan Bauer, professor of anthropology and sociology, groups of three to four students in his Qualitative Methods of Research class developed ethnographies on their subjects through a video running 12 to 15 minutes long and a written report.

“The primary goal of an ethnography is to give people a view of what it’s like to be a member of a community that they haven’t directly experienced,” Bauer explains. “The ethnographer’s task is to find out what it’s like to live in that ‘village’ and communicate that to those reading or viewing a video. One of the ultimate tests of a good ethnography is that if you’ve read it, would you be able to go in and act like a native? That is a grand ideal that no one ever reaches, but it’s the goal.”

The two forms of reporting used by the students lend themselves to expressing different qualities.

“The kind of texture and feelings in the community are better documented in video and images,” says Bauer. “The more abstract ideas are probably better expressed in writing.”

The students shared two digital video cameras to record on digital 8 tape, editing the video on computer, and outputting the results on tape. Digital video cameras are much easier to use than the previous analog-based cameras and produce high quality images, says Bauer. “With the earlier cameras, by the time students edited, they were using third or fourth generation video and the images were fuzzy,” he notes. “The other advantage is that they can do things like dissolving and ‘fade to black.’ It’s very smooth and looks quite professional. The only real limitation on output is the team members’ practice in shooting video.”

Another aspect of the learning experience is student management of the projects. “I used project management tools such as Microsoft Project software so they could see how long it took them to learn how to edit, do the shooting, and plan the project, just as you do in industry,” says Bauer. “That doesn’t mean that everybody follows their plan well, but everyone learns from that experience. They put charts on the wall, and as they saw the tasks that their peers were doing, they borrowed to add to their plans. Learning how to manage projects is something most of the students will have to do in one way or another in their careers.”

Those studying several rodeos are Cori Brindle ’03, an English major from Harrisburg, Pa.; Dana Emerson ’03, a geology major from Brick, N.J.; Heather Werner ’02, an anthropology and sociology major from Bath, Pa.; and Heather Badamo ’03, an anthropology and sociology major from Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. The group focused on Edgewood Valley Farms in Nazareth.

Werner concentrated on what it means to be a cowboy. “The rodeo cowboy gets a lot of credit for the cowboy image, but a cowhand puts in more time taking care of the animals,” she says. “The rodeo cowboy doesn’t know the characteristics of the animals, whereas the cowhand can tell him which bull will be more aggressive and other qualities. This is important because judges not only look at the performer, but the bull as well.”

“The class allows students to study a group of people or activities that most people really don’t know about,” adds Werner. “It gives us a grasp of what ethnographers and anthropologists do. I loved going to the informants, asking questions, videotaping, and trying to describe a rodeo.”

The students reporting on Shiloh Baptist Church in Easton are Winston Davis ’03, an anthropology and sociology major from Tampa, Fla.; Marianna Kohn ’02, an anthropology and sociology major from Albany, N.Y.; and adult student Kim Moor, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and the wife of Scott Moor, assistant professor of chemical engineering.

The team that learned about a Sikh congregation meeting at an Easton auto repair shop is Corinne Cayce ’02, an anthropology and sociology major from Virginia Beach, Va.; Jennifer Bennett ’03, an anthropology and sociology major from Gray, Maine; Megan Vacca ’03, an art major from Farmington, Conn.; and Jennifer Roberts ’03, a religion major from Royersford, Pa.

The group that observed senior citizens at Manor Care of Palmer includes Kate Schmidt ’03, an anthropology and sociology major from Effort, Pa.; Elissa Ebeling ’02, an English major from Mahwah, N.J.; Alissa Johnston ’02, a French major from Canaan, N.H.; and Diane Griggs ’03, an anthropology and sociology major from Oldwick, N.J.

The extreme sports students that learned about participants in skate boarding, in-lane skating, and BMX bikes at an Allentown skate park is comprised of anthropology and sociology majors Peggy Dozsa ’03 of Sykesville, Md.; William Stocker ’03 of Easton, Pa.; Alyssa Nicoletti ’03 of Orange, Conn.; and Ashley Herrmann ’02 of Rye, N.Y.

Categorized in: Academic News