Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Fieldwork - first reflections

Interviewed my first cearense today, a professor of sociology at the Federal and State Universities here in Ceara. He could have talked the hind legs off a horse and there didn´t seem to be any way of politely interrupting him. I gave up recording him afte an hour - and he carried on for a further two.

Tomorrow I´m supposed to interview the current state education secretary but for some reason the person organising it hasn´t received my emails and now the webmaster is bouncing them back. Open government? Don´t make mke laugh!

I´ve also been at the state legislature yesterday and today. On Monday I met the adviser to the main opposition spokesman on education (who just happens to be PT). Having read through the government´s self-congratulatory spin I was hoping he might direct me towards some alternative perspectives. Unfortunately he had nothing - and then suggested I contact the education ministry since they would have more information about this sort of thing than the PT! It´s at times like this I don´t know whether to laugh or cry. And then I think there might be some scope for making money. If I could organise a bunch of Lib Dems - well versed in opposition and how to extract material from the government and then use it against that very source - to arrange a series of ´how to be an effective opposition´ sessions in Brazil I would become a rich man. Well, maybe not rich, but satisfied with business trips to places like Fortaleza.

Today I tried an alternative tack. They do have trabscripts of debates in the legislature, a la Hansard, but that is where the similarities end. Before 1998 it´s all paper-based, which means wading through summaries of 130+ legislative sessions a year to identify those which I need.

Brazil may have plenty of internautas (internet users), but its political institutions are way behind the electronic revolution, I can tell you. If you don´t believe me, look at the federal government websites. Even though that level is better connected than the state governments, they aren´t user-friendly, with plenty of acronyms and no definitions dominating the pages.

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