The field observation, an ethnographic practice of collecting data and information about a given social setting and situation is often used in preliminary research to have an understanding of the community one is researching. However, from an artist/musician's perspective, the field observation has many commonalities with techniques used in audio field recording. How can field recording be used in parallel with field observations to explore and understand a community through art? This essay will begin with a comparison of field observations and field recordings as methods in their own disciplines, and continue with the concept of “attention” in art, music, science and anthropology. It will follow and conclude with a project that looks at combining qualitative research and art to explore a community of gardeners through recorded interviews and sounds. The work of Pauline Oliveros, Walter S. Gershon, Clifford Geertz, Anne McCrary Sullivan, and Steven Feld will be important in making the connections across disciplines.


Science Technology Studies, Situated Knowledge, Arts Based Research, Pauline Oliveros, Anthropology of Sound

Author Bio(s)

sam smiley's intersectional identities include media artist and educator, forager, and gardener. She holds an M.F.A. (terminal degree in the arts) in Electronic Arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is an adjunct instructor at Lesley University. She is doing her doctoral studies at Leiden University through the Taos Institute. Her dissertation work explores invasive species, weeds and plant subjectivity. She is using STS (science, technology and society), cultural studies, history of science and arts based research to do a historiography of the development of Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia Japonica) as an "invasive species". She lives in Somerville and Provincetown, Massachusetts and is growing basil, tomatoes, peas, collards, and purslane in a garden plot at B-Street Community Gardens in Provincetown. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: sam smiley at, rocketscience@astrodime.org.


Special thanks to Mary Ann Kearns for preliminary editorial advice, and Pauline Oliveros for taking the time in this interview.

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