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COMBINING CONTINUOUS MONITORING AND SPOT SAMPLING

The difference between CM and spot sampling is analogous to the difference between ethnography and survey research. With ethnography, you get information about process; with survey research, you get data that let you estimate parameters for a population. Spot sampling is used in TA research precisely because the goal is to estimate parameters—like how much time, on average, women spend cooking, or men spend throwing pots, or children spend laid up ill at home. If you want to know the ingredients of mafongo (a dish native to Puerto Rico) and the order in which they are added, you have to watch continuously as someone makes it. (Making it yourself, as part of participant observation, produces embodied knowledge, yet a third kind of information.)

Robin O’Brian (1998) combined CM and spot sampling in her study of Mayan crafts- women in Chiapas, Mexico. The women sold their crafts to tourists at a local market. Several times a week, O’Brian went through the market (entering from a randomly selected spot each time) and coded what every woman craft seller was doing, using a check sheet adapted from A. Johnson et al.’s (1987) standardized time allocation activity codes.

O’Brian also did continuous monitoring for 3 hours of 15 women, and these two kinds of data produced more information than either kind alone. Her aggregate, spot-sampling data showed that the women spent 82% of their time waiting for tourists to buy something. The women weren’t just sitting around, though. They spent 17% of their waiting time producing more crafts (doing macrame or embroidery or hand-spinning wool) and another 17% eating, cleaning children, or nursing. The CM data showed that women were interrupted in their productive activities 36% of their waiting time (that is, 36% of 82%, or 30% of their entire day) and that the interruptions were as likely to be responding to their children’s needs as they were to be selling to tourists.

 
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