I have made a decision regarding my upcoming sabbatical proposal. What I am really interested in doing, I think, is telling the story of a family who fled Liberia and Sierra Leone in the late 1990s at the height of the messy, diamond-fueled, multi-country conflict. My church has been working with the family since about 2005, and I have grown very close to them. They have an amazing story to tell–actually, three distinct amazing stories, since the family was split and later reunited. My sabbatical proposal will be to research (with IRB approval) their story and work on writing it. Doing so is going to raise all kinds of interesting questions about the psychology of survival, the role of storytelling in refugee communities, the best means of telling their narrative, and hosts of others (like how to get it published). I look forward to the challenge.
This might seem like quite a turn from my usual subject matter. And in some ways, it is. I won’t be writing and reading specifically about Twitter, Facebook, or whatever else comes up. I hope to keep up with everything, but my focus, I think, is going to be on storytelling. Along the way, of course, I will be using all kinds of new technologies: I am already discovering that my research methods have shifted substantially even since my dissertation days. One big difference, for example, is that the research data I gather (videos, timelines, recordings) will likely be published online, and not secreted away in some drawer somewhere. I will also rely on social networking tools to collaborate with a range of people on the project.
I am also already wishing that the Google Books full-text database was a reality for clipping content from select sources. Anybody else horrified by the idea of retyping passages? I want to cut and paste.