Reflections on my Data

In the previous post I showed a visualisation of my data which included the places I travelled to, how much time I spent using the Internet that day and what type of connectivity I encountered. Some questions that arise here are, how do I define travel recording? And, how did I measure the activities which constitute it?

I see travel recording as being composed of three different types of activities:

1) Social Media: This is time spent using social media productively to record my travel experience. This includes composing my own material on platforms like Facebook, Tumblr or Line and also browsing the posts of others in my newsfeed. It does not, however, include purely consumptive behaviour such as watching a video on YouTube for entertainment purposes (read more here).

2) Email: Again, this includes time spent both reading and composing emails in my three personal email accounts.

3) Offline: This is activities related to travel recording which don’t require an Internet connection. This includes practices like photography, photo editing, drawing (one of my blogs features my sketches of travel events) and even things like time spent driving to reach an area with Internet connection in order to upload posts.

I recorded the amount of time that I spent recording travel by keeping a daily log of the above three activities. To do which I used my wristwatch and the clock on my computer to help me keep a running tally of the time I spent engaged in travel recording activities throughout the day. At night time I entered the total hours for each respective category into my log. The times recorded in the log are informed estimates rather than exact figures. While an exact figure would, perhaps, be preferable, many of the practices involved in recording travel are fluid, meaning that they would be challenging to record precisely using the auto-ethnographic method. An example of this can be seen in the way a web browser (or, smartphone) allows the user to constantly switch between different tabs, and different processes, creating a usage pattern which is dynamic and intuitive. This same fluid usage behaviour, does, however, makes it extremely difficult for the user to give an accurate estimate of the time spent on one particular task as they are constantly flicking between different tabs. When I was recording my travel experiences to social media or email I frequently used other tabs such as Google search (to obtain information), Google translate, or Wiktionary (to check spelling). Additionally, given that travel recording is a leisure activity for me, I also commonly had tabs with content sent to me by my social media contacts or with completely unrelated material. I would drift into this material for a break from recording, or while waiting for a reply, and later, drift back to my emails or social media. In short, my practice of recording travel online was a dynamic process which did not occur in a homogenous, linear way but rather as a stop/start, multisited process. In light of my dynamic digital routine, keeping a completely accurate log of time spent recording travel seems a difficult process and I preferred instead to use an informed estimate of how much time I spent each day. If the researcher was interested in gaining more exact timings of use they could try a timing application (perhaps with multiple timers) which could be present on the desktop or a window on the user’s smartphone or browser.

A similar challenge can be seen in the ‘offline’ travel recording practices, while some activities like drawing or editing photos are relatively straight forward and easy to time, the practice of travel photography throws a considerable curveball at the researcher. How does one estimate time spent engaged in travel photography? As a very broad description, is it time spent with a camera or smartphone at hand in the foreign landscape? Or, on the other extreme, is it only the time which leads up to the shutter being pressed (i.e. the physical framing and clicking)? While this second option might seem to do a good job of encompassing the practice of travel photography, it neglects the travellers’ mental framing process in which particular sites are assessed for their suitability as photos – an essential part of the photography process. In order to make my estimates for my log, I logged travel photography as time spent ‘hunting’ pictures, that is, time spent in the landscape with the main purpose of taking photos. While this would not encompass many instances when photos were taken as a spur of the moment decision (usually with my smartphone as my camera is heavier and I only take it out when I’m sure I will be taking photos), it also included time when no photos were taken but my mental image framing process was in operation and thus, to me, struck a happy midpoint.

See anything amiss here? I’d be happy to hear about it!

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