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CONTINUOUS MONITORING IN ANTHROPOLOGY

CM has a long and noble history in anthropology. When Eliot Chapple was still a student at Harvard in the 1930s, he built a device he called the “interaction chronograph” for recording on a rolling sheet of paper the minute features (facial expressions, gestures) of human interaction. The interaction chronograph is, as far as I can tell, the unheralded forerunner of the hand-held computer recording systems used for continuous monitoring in ethology, psychology, and anthropology today (Chapple 1940; Chapple and Donald 1947).

In 1949, John Roberts and a Zuni interpreter took turns sitting in one of the rooms of a Zuni house, simply dictating their observations into a tape recorder. (That recorder, by the way, was the size of a suitcase and weighed 30 pounds.) This went on for 5 days and produced data for a 75,000-word book, rich in detail about everyday Zuni life. Figure 14.2 shows some excerpts from Roberts’s work.

People let Roberts park in their homes for 5 days because Roberts was a participant

FIGURE 14.2.

Excerpts from Roberts's observations of a Zuni household. Persons and things are identified by shorthand notation. For example, 2Da2Da3 is the family's second daughter who is 3 years old. Sequence begins at 9:40 a.m. and ends at 10:00 a.m.

SOURCE: J. M. Roberts, Zuni Daily Life. © 1965 [orig. 1956], HRAF Press. Reproduced with permission.

Table 14.1 Nutritional Behavior of Four Pilaga Indian Children

Behavior

Yorodaikolik (4 years)

Tanpani (8-9 years)

Naicho (6 years)

Deniki (15 months)

Given food

9

7

27

42

Deprived of food

7

0

2

4

Deprivation followed by restitution

1

0

1

2

Attempt made to deprive of food

2

1

1

4

Gives food

8

7

1

3

Withholds food

6

5

2

3

Deprives others of food

2

6

1

0

Attempts to deprive others of food

1

5

0

1

Receives part of a whole

0

1

0

4

Punished while eating

0

0

0

3

Total observations of each child from which these are taken

190

207

238

208

SOURCE: I. N. Mensh and J. Henry. 1953. Direct Observation and Psychological Tests in Anthropological Field Work. American Anthropologist 55(4): 466. http://www.anthrosource.net.

observer of Zuni life and had gained his informants’ confidence. Even earlier, in 1936-37, Jules and Zunia Henry did fieldwork among the Pilaga Indians of Argentina. Among the data they collected was a set of direct observations of children. Table 14.1 shows the data from observations made on four children for 10 kinds of behaviors associated with eating and food sharing.

The data in table 14.1 were extracted from 843 observations of children’s behavior. Here are two of those observations from the original data:

The three children of Diwa’i are feeding peacefully together. Deniki, the baby, waves his hand for food and mother gives him a small piece of palm dipped in fat. After eating a second piece he is given the breast.

Deniki, Nacho, and Soroi are together. Deniki is holding a dish with a very small quantity of cooked fruit in it. Soroi says, ‘‘Share it with me,’’ and takes one fruit out of the dish. Naicho immediately snatches another one away violently, but not before Deniki has already taken one out, which he then offers to Naicho, appearing not to comprehend her action. (Mensh and Henry 1953:467)

 
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