Course Project: Paper + Documentation
The goal of this course is for participants not only to understand the nature of folk culture as it is situated in Louisiana but also to contribute to the documentation and broader understanding of folk culture. Towards that end, each participant is responsible for contributing to our understanding of Louisiana folk culture by writing a 2500-word paper based on the documentation and analysis of folk narrative as captured on a recording which will also be submitted along with the proper documentation. Papers and records must possess the following dimensions:
First, and foremost, they must be accessionable: you and the people whom you document must be willing to have the work done be a part of the public record. In the case of a great deal of material, this means it is publishable upon final submission. In the case of sensitive material, this may mean a delay in publication, waiting for the sensitivity to pass. This is something to negotiate between participants, the people they document, and the instructor. (It goes without saying that the work must also be verifiable by the instructor.)
Second, the documentation must be consumable: written texts must be readable by general as well as specialist audiences. Recordings must be listenable. (If video, it must be watchable.) This means raw audio or video files with poor sound and bad lighting are not acceptable.
In addition, please be sure that your paper has, in addition to the necessary background information about performers and their texts, an analytical dimension, making a clear case for why a text is not only interesting but also important in terms of understanding some aspect of folk narrative. That means that anything that is the focus of a project must be:
- Traditional. While the world is filled with interesting people doing interesting things, and kooky people doing kooky things, folklore studies is not about the interesting nor the kooky: it is about the things we find so significant that we repeat them. Traditions can be, however, quite small. Families, even just nuclear families, can have sayings and stories that are an integral, or marginal, part of how they communicate with each other. But within any object, it is the temporal dimension that gives it depth.
- Tangible. While we do not normally think of texts as something we touch, we do. This is a research project in a university course: it must have at its foundation evidence that can be quantified: a discrete set of recordings that contain a discrete number of texts that will themselves be the object of analysis.
- Tractable. It makes no sense to collect evidence if you do not plan to do anything with it. Accurate description with some analysis–that is, breaking a larger whole into its discrete parts so that the reader understands the mechanics behind the art–is critical to a successful submission. *
The project must be submitted both electronically and as a hard copy. Electronic copies may be documents created by Word or Pages or another word processor if submitted as RTF. Paper copies must have one-inch margins, twelve-point serif type faces, single-sided, and high quality toner or ink. (Faded submissions will be rejected.)
Documentation must be submitted electronically and audio files may be in MP3 or AIF format. (No WAV files, please.) Video files should be MP4. Logs should accompany recordings and can be in either Word, Pages, or PDF.
The written document must be no less than 2500 words, of which 750 words of transcription can be counted towards the total. That means 1750 words, or approximately 5 typed, double-spaced pages, must be your own description, analysis, and explanation of the material being treated. Transcriptions greater than 750 words may be included, and, if done well, will certainly be factored into a project’s evaluation. (So, yes, more is almost always better, but good more. More with good documentation and transcription and on topic, not random more.)
The final version of the project must be turned in during the last week of class, on a day specified by the instructor. Prior to that date, there will be a number of draft submission deadlines. Missed deadlines will be noted, and while no immediate penalty is assessed, no consideration will be granted to exceptional circumstances as later, or the final, deadlines occur.
|Research proposal due
|1 analytical paragraph
|2 (new) analytical paragraphs + 1 background paragraph
|Revisions of any prior ¶s
|Complete final draft
Guidelines for Recording
There are a number of things to keep in mind when making field recordings, the most prominent of which is making the people with whom you work comfortable. Under the tight timeline of this course, this is most often family and friends for most participants, but it can also be workmates or other acquaintances – it is exceedingly hard to start an entirely new project from scratch and complete any documentation of note, let alone add any analysis within the scant few months of the semester. Additional dimensions of making someone comfortable is to record them in a environment with which they are familiar and under circumstances as close to the usual or the familiar as possible.
When it comes time to record someone, make sure you have tested, and practiced with, your equipment. If you are using your phone, take time to record yourself talking in a room. Set it down on an oven mitt, or folded kitchen towel, as we have discussed and then sit in various places in relationship to the device to see how the microphone picks up different positions and distances. (You will also get a sense of what ambient noises it tends to pick up as well.) Make sure you know how to use the software, if you are using an iOS or Android device, and that the software is storing the recording some place from which you can later get it. Also make sure that you have enough room on your device to make a recording. That may mean letting the recording run for ten minutes and then seeing how much room the file it creates takes up. Multiply that number times 6 for a one hour session and times 12 for a two hour session. Does your device have enough storage room? (Make sure you turn a radio or television on so that if you are recording to a compressed format, the device has something to record.)
The recording software for iOS and Android devices is an ever-changing landscape. Popular Science has some recommendations. The app that I have used on my iOS device is CaptureAudio. It has direct DropBox sync, which has been very reliable for me – obviously I wait until I have a wifi connection before I sync.