For the first round of the minifield work exercise, I assumed the role of Dr. Researcher. The topic my partner Caitlyn and I chose was necessary improvements on Queens College campus. The general question I began with was “What changes do you feel need to be made to the campus?” I made my question less generalizable and specified exactly what I meant. For example, I asked “Do you feel that building structure is an issue?”, “Do you have a problem with classroom size?”, “Do you think there is sufficient elevator access or access to stairs?” “Would you consider the campus as a whole, safe or hazardous?”, “Is there anything in particular that you hope could look better or be improved?” While walking to particular areas she wanted to show me, Caitlyn explained that she does not have a problem with building structure, classroom size, she feels there is sufficient stair and elevator access, but had a truly heinous problem with the pavement within the campus. The location she took me to was a walkway outside of the New Science Building. She also showed me an area located between Colwin Hall and Remsen, just outside of Razran. In these areas the pavement was damaged and extremely hazardous. The ground was uneven, cracked, potholed, rutted, and extremely unattractive. The area outside of Razran is surrounded by orange cones that seemingly serve no purpose. The area encompassed in the cones is not half as bad as other areas.
When we returned to the classroom and reviewed the photos, Caitlyn told me that the photos represent danger to her. She even had a personal story to share with me. With her permission, the brief version of the story is that she had slipped on ice that was masked by water in one of the potholes. She was injured and was unable to work or go to school for quite a while. She told me that she feels the pavement is not only dangerous for people walking, but for cyclists and the physically challenged in wheelchairs as well. She also said that the uneven payment diminished the aesthetic quality of the campus. I could see that the picture brought back a painful memory for Caitlyn; however, I am glad that she was able to share her story with me because of that photo.
It was a great experience doing fieldwork. I feel that through photos, participants are more comfortable sharing information with the researcher. Photos evoke more emotion from participants than questions do. Photos can bring more meaning to a subject than words can. For example, I liked that through a photo I learned more about my participant than may be she was willing to share or even remembered to share with me. It was easier to describe her problem to me through the photo. I think the most difficult part of the exercise was deciding on exactly what to focus on or ask. Usually, when you think of the campus, you think of buildings, the setup, the environment, but I would have never thought to ask about the pavement and discovered that it was in need of improvement. The easiest part of the exercise was taking clear notes on what the participant was describing. I felt that being at the location rather than hearing about it allowed me to observe and write more efficiently. Next time, I would try to think more carefully about what I want to ask my participant in order to obtain more information.
My experience as a participant I felt was thought provoking because one photo made me ramble on about the quality of the dining service at school. One photo provoked “word vomit” in a sense. For example, looking at the photo of a menu and pricing at the cafeteria made me think of how overpriced and sometimes unappetizing the food is. It made other related thoughts pour out as well. The easy part of being a participant was that I knew where I wanted to show Caitlyn right away. The overall experience was simply amazing!