University of Wisconsin–Madison

ARIS Fieldwork Assignment and Reflection Essay

Tim Frandy (Folklore 100)


You will be working in groups of 4-5 students to electronically document 3 important aspects of student culture at UW-Madison using an iPad and an ARIS game. Each group will briefly document (using video, audio, and photography) one place, two stories, and a folk art or craft that you feel are important or telling within student life at Madison. This assignment will bring you to “the field” right away and help develop your skills as fieldworkers and cultural analysts. It will also expose you to ARIS games and provide the experience of working with larger sets of fieldwork compiled by the multiple perspectives of multiple fieldworkers.



September 12: Groups of five will be assembled in class on Wednesday. These groups will be organized loosely according to one’s class (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior). By separating into these different groups, we hope to be able to explore how the campus experience changes as one acclimates to campus life and student culture. Each group will be issued an iPad at this time.

September 12-21: Each group will decide what and whom to document, and go out to the field to do so. On the iPad, open the App, ARIS, and create a username and password for your group to share. Then search for the game titled “Folklore 100 (F12).” If you click on Map, you will notice that there are three characters on the map: Tim, Meg, and Becca. Go talk to Tim (either by “meeting him” on Bascom Hill or by using the map’s “quick travel” feature), and he will explain how to document a place. After you successfully document a place, Meg will tell you how to document a story, and Becca will help you document a folk art. These three quests must be completed in order (place, stories, folk art).

To document a place (or story or folk art), first go to the place you would like to document. In ARIS, click on the notebook feature. Add a Note, and use the camera icon to take photos and video, the microphone to record audio, and the text to write commentary. I strongly encourage you to be creative in your documentation, and do more than the bare minimum to complete the quests! For each of the three quests, you will need to 1) Upload the appropriate media; 2) Write a short analytical text explaining how your fieldwork is important within student folklife; 3) Share each note with “both” the map and the list; 4) Tag each note with the keyword place (or Stories/Folk Art), your year(s) in school, and any other appropriate tags that describe the content of your documentation (ie, tradition, performance, group); then leave at least 2 comments on the posts of other students. Only then can you move on to the next part of the assignment.


A quick note:

We ask that you avoid documenting events that center around alcohol, drugs,or other illegal activities. Though these activities are a very real part of university culture across the country and much of the world, we have found that these topics produce poor final projects for a variety of reasons. It’s best to look for other activities to document for the purposes of our class.



Folklorists often talk about the difference between space and place. Space refers to a physical space, and place refers to the ways that humans interact with the space and with other people to create interpersonal meanings which are encoded into that space. As a place, for instance, Bascom Hill is not simply a hill. It is a place where undergraduates have labored up (and complained about walking up) for over a century. It is a place to be seen, for public displays, for activism, and for play in the shadow of a serious institution.

Your group needs to identify one such place in Madison that has some important meaning to student folklife. It could be a favorite place to study, to unwind, or to socialize. It could be a favorite cafe, venue to hear music, or shop. It could be a favorite green-space on campus, an important campus marker, or destination. Take at least one still photo and one video of this place that illustrates how it is important to student folk culture. You might want to consider including an interview clip in your video, if you cannot otherwise easily record a video that showcases the place’s importance. After recording and uploading, write a short analytical text, share, tag with the term “place” (and other relevant tags), then comment on two other posts.



Stories have long held great importance to folklorists. A century ago, folklorists were largely concerned with myths, legends, and fairy (magic) tales. Nowadays, folklorists also look at other genres of oral tradition: personal anecdotes, jokes, chants, children’s rhymes, and urban legends. Stories often reveal crucial information about the teller’s values, belief systems, and worldview, and they are tools used to negotiate values with other individuals.

For this task, your group should record two stories, one using only audio and one using video. Each story should reflect some aspect of student folklife: perhaps a tale of one’s first experiences participating in a campus tradition, a story that reflects the struggles of cooking in the residence halls, or a macabre story about Science Hall. After recording and uploading, write a short analytical text, share, tag with the term “stories” (and other relevant tags), then comment on two other posts.


Folk Art: Folk art is a broad term that encompasses arts and crafts designed for use (canoe paddles, rag rugs, furniture) and traditional decorative arts (textiles, clothing, jewelry, or wall-hangings). Folk art is usually taught outside institutions, and the art is more likely to be used than hung on the wall, yet folk art is every bit as full of symbols and meanings as so called “high art.”

For this task, your group needs to document one folk art within UW student culture, using photographs and/or video. This could be a knitter, a jewelry-maker, a woodworker. It might involve tattoos, specially ornamented backpacks, or the placing of a stocking cap and scarf on the statue of Abraham Lincoln. It might be helpful to think of folk art as a relationship between the product, process, and people. For instance, the materials used (natural vs. synthetic) or the process (old-fashioned vs. reliant on new technologies) will tell us a great deal about the meanings within the folk art. Once again, after uploading, write a short analytical text commenting on the relationship between the folk art and student culture, share, tag with the term “folk art” (and other relevant tags), then comment on two other posts.

 September 28: Reflective Essay due. Review the fieldwork collected by each group on Place, Stories, and Folk Arts. You can review using the ARIS game using the iPad. You can also access player Notes online at Be sure to take note of the group’s year in school as you watch these videos.


Each student will use this data as the basis of a 5-page essay. This essay should have four sections:

1) Identifying Information: Very briefly provide the names of your group members, and indicate the titles of the Notes you created.

2) Content Analysis: What observations can you make from this data set about self representations of student life on the UW-Madison campus? How does the understanding of campus life change as one transitions from a Freshman to an Upperclassman? How does your own group’s documentation parallel and differ from the documentation of other groups? What do the differences suggest about both the ethnographers and the interviewees? Which fieldwork surprised you the most and why? Be sure to provide detailed and specific examples which back up your claims!

3) Presentation Analysis: Which interviews, videos, and photographs within the entire class are the most successful? Explain why they are effective. Which of your own group’s videos and photographs are the most successful and why? Which of your group’s videos or photographs has the most room for improvement and why? (Don’t worry: fieldwork is an improvisatory art, and it’s absolutely normal to make mistakes).

4) Group Process: Briefly reflect on the group process. Was the work divided fairly, and did group members perform the tasks they committed to do? Did group members attend all scheduled out-of-class meetings? What did you take away from this experience working with a group? This information will remain confidential.


Fieldwork and participation (group): 50 points

Reflective essay (individual): 50 points