Reporting from the Field # 2: Moving to the Ground

Posted on November 8, 2011

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‘Reporting from the Field’ is a series of posts relating to my fieldwork in the fall of 2011. The fieldwork is a part of my Master in Social Anthropology from the University of Copenhagen, and the final thesis will be completed in early 2013. The posts are part of a research- and analyzing process and should not been seen as conclusive.

One thing is planning a field trip with theories in the backpack, another is actually practicing it on the ground.

Maria@Tahrir

Maria@Tahrir. Photo by Mohamed ElGohary

I wanted to focus on the users of Ushahidi, but dealing with an open source software and anonymous reporting I knew beforehand that it would be a great challenge. After my first couple interviews in Cairo I found that there are two main types of users (firsthand reporters on the ground):

  1. People that are send out, coordinated from a project management. (It was my impression that this group is the most dominant contributer to deployments in Cairo.)
  2. People that know of a deployment – one way or the other – and report without having any further relation to the project. (My interviews in Nairobi research tells me, that this group might be more active in Kenya.)

I concluded that it would be too time consuming to track either type of users and quickly decided to shift focus to the ‘deployers’: people that start up a project or participate in the core group. In other words, I had to skip my ‘Problem Statement’ as soon as I had set foot on the ground – a common maneuver for ethnographic fieldwork, I guess.