Baking bread.

Today I presented the provisionary first results of my fieldwork. The thing went reasonably well. The technological setup worked, the projector projected, the PowerBook booted, the external harddisk revolved and the video clips that I recorded at the Darmstädter Hauptbahnhof (main station) and cut during the last weeks stuttered over the screen. My trusty old Pismo Powerbook is a bit underpowered for this kind of high-quality DV movie material presentation, and I am hoping to be able to upgrade its processor during the semester break. Getting back to the point: what kind of video clips did I present though?
The first half of the session was to be about my involvement as a participant observer in the field, or, to be more precise, my impact as a DV camera wielding researcher on the people walking through the station. This went quite well and got a few laughs (I hope to be putting some of the sequences online as soon as I have figured out a way to hide the identity of some of the people that could be identified). The only thing that irritated me was that several people asked me what the sequences which I presented have to do with technology, since we are in a post-graduate college with the title “technology and society.” Well, as I said before I started the presentation, technology in the form of ticket selling machines would be the focus of the second part of the same presentation that they currently witness. Mpf.
I had less time for the second part than I would have liked. Quickly scratching trough the two remaining clips I wanted to demonstrate the first (micro-)sociological result of my work so far: it appears that ticket selling machines generate some ambiguity after the transaction should be finished, that is after the tickets have been printed. I will be analyzing this in more detail, but I want give you some kind of hint of what is happening. After people extract their tickets (which in itself is not always an easy process) it seem to be unclear if the interaction with the machine is actually finished. People turn to leave the machine but then look over their shoulders, even going back to the machine (sometimes in spite of displaying signs of being in a hurry) to check if the interaction is actually finished. Why is that? A possible explanation would be, that the machine does not obey the rules of personal interaction that demand a recognizable token of completion of the interaction and/or a closing remark similar to a verbal or gestual good bye.

What does all of this have to do with baking bread you might ask yours truly. Well, as I was sitting in the local train from Darmstadt to Frankfurt I found a nice introduction for the letter which I have to write to the DB AG (German Railway) representative who has to grant me the right to make further video recordings at train stations: As the mills of science grind slowly I can not yet offer you much. However, I have produced enough flour to bake a small roll for you. With more time in the field I will be able to produce enough flour to bake a bread. Perhaps we can even add a cake as dessert. I am not sure if this is the absolutely appropriate form to address these people. Whatever.

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