methodology

Now at IASPM: Doing Nightlife Fieldwork Series


The International Association for the Study of Popular Music - US Chapter

Exciting news, folks! My series, “Doing Nightlife Fieldwork,” has been cross-posted by the IASPM-US blog with the title “Doing Nightlife Research.” That’s the US chapter of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. I’m very excited to be seeing this circulating to a wider audience of popular music scholars, especially because I hope that this will prompt more of us to talk about how we do our research. Maybe there will be enough interest to generate a special issue on the topic…

In any case, here are the links to the series on IASPM-US Blog:

Doing Nightlife Research I: Introduction

Doing Nightlife Research II: Going Out

Doing Nightlife Research III: Interviewing

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Doing Nightlife Fieldwork III: Interviewing


Entrance to the Larco Museum of Pre-Columbian History in Lima, Peru. Why should all these pictures be party pictures, anyway?

Keep reading, folks! This is the last installment of the series on fieldwork methodology for ethnographic research in nightlife scenes—in other words, how to study a dance music scene without getting in the way. Last Thursday, I posted a brief list of problems that nightlife scenes pose to conventional modes of ethnographic research. Unsurprisingly, most of those issues had to do with the circumstances of EDM (electronic dance music) events themselves; and so, on the next day I wrote another article on “going out” for fieldwork, mostly detailing my own methods and giving a few bits of general advice. Todays post (and the final one in this series) covers a more conventional but no less important aspect of music ethnography: interviews! While the process of actually interviewing someone off-site (i.e., away from an EDM event) is pretty similar to other interviewing situations, there are some important things to keep in mind when (more…)

Doing Nightlife Fieldwork II: Going Out


Mutek, Montréal, 2008

Luckily, I managed to find a bit of time today to write this second part to this series, so I won’t be saddled with guilt about making promises to write more on my blog and then not fulfilling them. Yay productivity! So, to review: yesterday I wrote “Doing Nightlife Fieldwork,” which claimed that there wasn’t enough helpful writing out there on how to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in nightlife scenes. It’s a problem, I think, that we don’t at least have a shared idea of what “best practices” would look like; this is an important ethical and institutional issue for EDM studies, for sure. I listed a few ways that nightlife settings throw a wrench in conventional ethnographic methods and invited other folks to write in the comments and/or write response-posts on their own blogs. The comments have already been great, and there’s talk of a few of my EDM-scholars-with-blogs buddies preparing their own posts. Today, I’m going to focus on one of the main elements of music ethnography: attending music events and engaging in participant-observation. I’ll describe how (more…)

Doing Nightlife Fieldwork


Kiki and Silversurfer @ Le Rex, Paris, 2007

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a book entitled, “How To Do Fieldwork in Nightclubs and Bars?”  Certainly, when I was working on my own dissertation, I wished that other nightlife-researchers would be more open about their methods and more generous about giving advice to new ethnographers of nocturnal scenes. To be honest, a fair number of nightlife-researchers have published some details about their methods; it’s usually tucked away discreetly in an appendix or in a section of the introductory chapter. But these brief methodological reflections often lack too much detail to be instructive and—frankly—I’m not always satisfied with their solutions to the problems of nightlife fieldwork. Despite all my griping, I have been guided by the methods of some nightlife researchers, such as Fiona Buckland in her book Impossible Dance: Club Culture and Queer World-Making (2002).

In any case, very few nightlife ethnographers actually describe their research methods in detail, even though the circumstances of nocturnal scenes often pose difficult challenges to conventional fieldwork methods. Just a few of these are: (more…)