Teamwork in the Field by Katie Edmonds

Components of a Field Team

Using recording equipment, a shooting script and attempting to achieve coverage is a complex process requiring much focus and attention to detail, while remaining observant to the unexpected. Attempting this work within a fixed amount of time is even more difficult. Dividing up responsibilities among different members of a field team reduces the responsibility of any one person, and has the added benefit of incorporating the negotiations between participants that will accompany any excursion.

I've found that a team of 3 works very well, providing a balance between the diversity of viewpoints and attention to detail. Allowing one person to have the full responsibility over one task turns that person into an advocate for the quality that task provides to the work. Conversely, none of the tasks are dominant, and each is interdependent to the others.

The Roles

Map

  • Where will the team go?
  • How much time should be spent at each location?
  • What path should they follow, or in which order should the locations be visited?
  • How does an unexpected turn our encounter impact the path and how should the plan change in response?

Watching the map, calling out turns, nudging the team forward if there is something interesting in the next spot, this is the Map role. This member of the group has an eye on the overall context of the field so the rest of the team can be concentrating on their immediate environment.

Shooting Script Supervisor

Working closely with the Camera. Probing for detail in every location. Pointing out what may not be seen by the rest of the team. Setting up the shots so the Camera can focus on the technical aspects of capturing an image. Recording what themes have been captured. Ensuring topical and visual coverage.

Sound

Recording relevant team negotiations. Probing the people and objects in a space. Finding qualities that support or contradict what's being recorded by the camera.

Camera

Light. Framing. Coverage. Reporting to the Script Supervisor. Transferring media for the pinup session.

Working as a Team in the Field

Negotiating and moving on. Giving quiet when asked for. Speaking up. Speaking out. Pointing out.

 

 

Topical & Visual Coverage by Katie Edmonds

 

Topical Coverage

Topical overage is achieved when the area of inquiry has been investigated and documented so thoroughly that any more information collected would be redundant. In some cases the themes we're hoping to investigate may have no related evidence to document, and this is an interesting outcome. If we can say with confidence that we didn't find any examples of a category, this is an important subject for discussion during the pinup session.

Visual Coverage

When you notice something you want to capture, you will have to choose how it should be captured. In order to create a complete story you'll want to have visual coverage to express your observation in a way that offers a perspective that feels complete to your audience. The order in which you present these can be changed, but in order to allow yourself creative flexibility when you build your stories, strive to achieve solid coverage.

Establishing Shot & Soundscapes

These ways of framing help your viewer feel like they understand the context you're showing them. It's the most information that you can possible fit into one image, video clip or audio clip, calling attention not to any specific qualities, but to the overall qualities of the space. It anchors the viewer by making them feel confident that they know what they're looking at, and the perspective from which they're looking, and the context of the qualities you're presenting to them.

 

Medium Shot & Overheard Sounds

This is the kind of moment that establishes the human scale in the context you're examining. They make audience feel like they are there with you, that they are the same size as you, that they have a physical presence in the space that's neither god-like (establishing shot), nor that of an invisible observer who can examine anything in great detail (close up).

Close up Shot & Asking objects or people

This is the perspective of the invisible person. A close up shot is captured by someone moving in a space with great access, who can stop and examine things carefully and without the pressure of moving along or behaving within the norms of personal space. You can apprehend anything at great detail, and doing so suggests that there is a special meaningfulness to the thing that is being closely examined. Using too many of these shots will result in the audience losing trust in the authority of your visualizations, but too few and your viewers will get the sense that there isn't anything special about what you're showing them.

Moving On

Achieving a balance between visual and topical coverage, while operating within the confines of your access to people, objects and space, and your time, material and human resources, is a very complicated process. How to move on, when to move on, what to do if you haven't established coverage, what to do when the act or looking changes what you're seeing, this is all part of the process. If it feels difficult, if you're uncertain about how well you're doing, these are signs that you're really working with authenticity and care. The opportunity to explore and express these thoughts and experiences will come in the pinup session. Listen to your team, negotiate with the people with whom you are creating, and move on to the next thing.

Shooting Scripts by Katie Edmonds

What is a shooting Script?

Before we go into the field, into the context of experience, negotiation, observation, and documentation, we have to know what we're looking for. The designers knows formulas of looking, but the participating informant (if this is the appropriate term for a willing and knowledgeable participant), is the one who knows where to look, and what they want to see and make seen. Together we define the qualities that we would like to observe and document. This process is itself a dialogue. The designer has an agenda of clarification, order, legibility. The participant has the agenda of authenticity, self authorship, expression, and clarity of action. These themes are high quality if they meet the following criteria:

  • capture a shared, but not necessarily identical meaning, by all participants and designers participating in the exercise
  • are specific enough to be applied to things we can see
  • are open enough to be seen in many places
  • are open enough to be understood in different ways

Observational Spectra

What are some qualities that you would like to observe and document?

How would you articulate them as present or absent?

How would you articulate these as desirable or undesirable traits?

These are the themes of your shooting script. In order to keep track of how many instances of these qualities you've managed to find and capture while conducting field work, you'll have to document the themes in a way that allows you to tally the number of times you've captured each quality. I've found that these outlines work well in the field, and are flexible enough to be sketched quickly, or printed in advance.

    In the example on the left, themes are individual but related. Maybe this is the presence or absence of a theme, a desirable or undesirable manifestation of a theme. Some images may possesses both qualities, and a mark somewhere on the line can indicate that a document representing both qualities was captured.  In the figure on the right the themes are all interrelated. These qualities all fall on one spectrum rather than on multiple individual spectra.

 

In the example on the left, themes are individual but related. Maybe this is the presence or absence of a theme, a desirable or undesirable manifestation of a theme. Some images may possesses both qualities, and a mark somewhere on the line can indicate that a document representing both qualities was captured.

In the figure on the right the themes are all interrelated. These qualities all fall on one spectrum rather than on multiple individual spectra.

Establishing how these themes relate is itself an act of categorization for the designer an informant. Choosing the model that fits the space that we're investigating is an act of negotiation, agreement or proceeding in a state of disagreement in order to discover what happens next.

 This design student blocked out the spectra and converted it into a checklist. With a very short time allotted for observation, only 30 minutes, one check mark per category was enough to produce the coverage they were looking for.

This design student blocked out the spectra and converted it into a checklist. With a very short time allotted for observation, only 30 minutes, one check mark per category was enough to produce the coverage they were looking for.

 An attempt was made here to add a layer of complexity to the spectrum, but in the end the fast pace of field work made a simple dot on the spectrum a preferable method of documentation.

An attempt was made here to add a layer of complexity to the spectrum, but in the end the fast pace of field work made a simple dot on the spectrum a preferable method of documentation.

 This design student took the shooting script to the level of storyboarding. Their knowledge of what they were looking for turned the discovery process into an act of documentation. Without being prompted, they considered the publication platform and chose to post to Facebook.

This design student took the shooting script to the level of storyboarding. Their knowledge of what they were looking for turned the discovery process into an act of documentation. Without being prompted, they considered the publication platform and chose to post to Facebook.

 This design student turned their script into a location based list. They also decided in advance what they were looking for and blocked out a timed schedule to ensure they covered their entire list.

This design student turned their script into a location based list. They also decided in advance what they were looking for and blocked out a timed schedule to ensure they covered their entire list.

Listening by Katie Edmonds

Listening Together

Directed Listening, Directing Listening

When working with one or more people to capture sounds of a space, you can take advantage of each person's unique experience by verbally directing each other as you capture the sounds. In this transaction, if you keep your device constantly recording, you will find that in communicating with each other you will have a document of the subtle differences in how you experience the space, and be able to call on that again as you review what you recorded. This adds a layer of complexity to the act of recording, as you will both capture the sounds and the cooperation that takes place in the course of recording the sounds. This will also simplify the co-creation of artifacts, as you will have to switch your concentration from listening for sounds to capture, and listening or contributing to the negotiations with your collaborators.  Make this concentration switch intentional.

Steps of Listening

  • Listen alone.
  • Discuss.
  • Listen together.
  • Move.

What to listen for

Soundscapes

A soundscape is an entirely passive capturing of the sound in the space. This establishes the kind of place you're explaining.  In order to capture a great soundscape sit and listen quietly. Close your eyes. Try this from a few different spots. Which location has all the qualities you want to capture? Sit quietly and record a nice long clip of the space. Even if it's an empty room. Every space has a sound.

Overheard

As you listen for the best soundscape to capture that space, think of where you might capture sounds that make you feel like you understand the more prominent features of the space. If this is a conversation, a point of activity, an object that has distinct sonic qualities, approach these and record a nice long clip. Don't interact with what you're recording, rather just let it do what it's doing, but pay special attention to that moment you're trying to capture. This will make your audience feel like the are there in the space with you.

Asking objects or people

What requires a very close examination? What requires a cue? Pulling a lever, scraping a chair, dropping an object on the floor, asking a person a question, these are your moments to get really close to something that you think warrants some extra attention.

 

 

Seeing by Katie Edmonds

seeing Together

Directed Looking, Directing Looking

 

Steps of Looking

  • Look alone.
  • Discuss.
  • Look together.
  • Move.

How to Look

Establishing Shot

 This establishing shot of a mural provides some great detail about the context and circumstances of how the image was produced. We can see how unique this feature is in the context, from the panorama glitch we see that the image was not shot by a professional, on the left side of the frame we see a field notebook, and on the right we see another participant in the act of shooting with her phone.

This establishing shot of a mural provides some great detail about the context and circumstances of how the image was produced. We can see how unique this feature is in the context, from the panorama glitch we see that the image was not shot by a professional, on the left side of the frame we see a field notebook, and on the right we see another participant in the act of shooting with her phone.

 

Medium Shot

 This is what we we would see if we were walking by the mural on a nice day. The cars give us a sense of scale, and the street shows where we are physically situation in relation to relative to the topic.

This is what we we would see if we were walking by the mural on a nice day. The cars give us a sense of scale, and the street shows where we are physically situation in relation to relative to the topic.

 

Close Up Shot

 This close up reveals details of the image topic, and is contained within a frame chosen by the image creator. Out of all the features of this mural she chose to have us look at this train of change. We see the color of the past, the namelessness of the present, and the bright, streamlined presentation of the future.

This close up reveals details of the image topic, and is contained within a frame chosen by the image creator. Out of all the features of this mural she chose to have us look at this train of change. We see the color of the past, the namelessness of the present, and the bright, streamlined presentation of the future.

This shot series was created by a team of three young people investigating Pitkin Ave. in Brooklyn. They identified this mural as uplifting, and walk us through their intent and choices in the clip below.

What are Our Tools? by Katie Edmonds

Visible Tools

Cameras, microphones, lights, tripods, people working with these tools

Visible tools draw attention

Desired attention ------------------------ Undesired attention

 

Invisible Tools

smartphones, small audio recorders

Visible tools blend in and aren't different from what's usually found in the space.

Legitimacy ------------------------ Candor

 

How do We Record? by Katie Edmonds

Visual Recording

Photographs ------------------------ Video

Record ------------------------ Curate

 

Sound Recording

Capturing ourselves ------------------------ Capturing the environment

Passive recording ------------------------ Active recording

 

Writing

I / You / They / We

describing the internal

describing the external

propose or claim

What is Access? by Katie Edmonds

Physical Access

Can we physically be in the space?

Are there some who can and some who can't go to the space?

Go ------------------------ Don't go

 

Personal Access

Do we know people there?

Can we be introduced to people there?

Know ------------------------ Don't know

 

Consent

Do we need formal permission to record there?

Do we need informal consent to record there?

Will be be at risk if we record there?

Record openly ------------------------  Don't record openly

 

What is reflexivity? by Katie Edmonds

By touching, moving and directing our tools.

Reflections, and interruptions: putting ourselves in the document

Intentional creation of and inclusion of reflexive moments.