Sunday, August 26, 2007

Some Random Thoughts in Ethnographic Mode

It's been a little over a month since I began this exploration in beekeeping as both a novice beekeeper and an ethnographer. I've primarily focused on the actual mechanics of apiculture and developing a sense of the different philosophies and approaches within this world. At this point I've been somewhat limited, primarily depending on books and internet information, including involvement in the biobees forum and the organic beekeeping list. I have also corresponded with a number of beekeepers through email. I am much less overwhelmed but still have many questions.

So far, I've only been in contact and interaction with beekeepers through the internet which leads me to ask: how important is this media to the "socialization" of future beekeepers? I know that I live in a place where the closest beekeeping club is twenty miles away in another state and there seems to be no beekeepers in my immediate vicinity since I never observe honey bees in my own yard. How common is it for new beekeepers to learn the "craft" through internet sources without one-on-one mentoring? Has this changed beekeeping and, if so, how? How important was a mentoring relationship in the past? Or were clubs and apiculture books the primary transmitters?

I've read accounts about beekeeping clubs being primarily the domain of older men, yet many of the resources available on the web are provided by younger people both men and women. Is this pattern stereotypical or is there some generalizability to it? If it is a general pattern, how might it be explained?

I'll be interested in finding out how beekeepers are adapting both cognitively and "apiculturally" to the "threat of CCD". Is the sustainable beekeeping movement attracting more interest than just a few short years ago? How are commercial beekeepers coping with this "threat"? Is it changing viewpoints on husbandry or are they simply searching for another "silver bullet"?

I'm very interested in the way beekeepers think and talk about their bees. I've observed some beekeepers anthropomorphizing bee behavior. How does this activity vary with the type of beekeeping done? Do hobbyists talk of the bees differently than let's say a commercial apiculturalist?

Ethnographically speaking, I have questions about how to approach this blog. Should I see this as the place to record my own field notes albeit in a very unique and challenging way? Placing my field notes online like this has both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that it allows me immediate feedback on my insights as I do this ethnography. Other beekeepers, sociologists and anthropologists can become collaborators in my work, pointing out problems in what I've written and offering useful suggestions on the direction I might go. This never really happens in regular field research. No one but the ethnographer ever sees his/her field notes. Others simply read monographs based on those notes. The chief disadvantage, as I see it, is confidentiality. Many observations I make might need to be kept from the public for ethical reasons. Also, I can see field notes becoming quite boring to many readers as they will often appear to be narratives without a real point.

1 comment:

monta said...

You might want think about running a secondary blog for your actual field notes. You could then post summaries or updates that would provide interesting glimpses of it in Canaries in a Coal Mine. Then you would not have to worry about boring your regular readers with the less-than-entertaining field notes.

As far as confidentiality goes, you can encode any identifying names with pseudonyms - as long as you keep track of the real names somewhere...