The mark of a good ethnologist is knowing your population. Now, for most ethnologists, this involves a lot of searching; discerning your population, selecting an adequate sample size, seeking out where they live and work, and finally living among them long enough to get enough information to write their piece. This basic system is practically universal, whether you study indigenous populations in South America or subgroups within the United States. And it is also extremely time consuming. Without a population, you have no research subjects. With too small a population, you may find resistance to your questions, or simply not enough informants to make your research valid within your time frame. With too large of one, you can never reach a solid sample size without lots of help. They teach this to you in every introduction course in anthropological theory, so you at least know what to expect when you hit the field. But sometimes, getting your population is a matter of pure chance, finding the right group at the right time.
Thank god for luck.
I knew after Katsucon that I would need to hit a lot more conventions than I had previously thought. I had never heard of Katsucon before Nekocon 2008, despite the fact that it was a long running, and very large attendee convention. I should take this time to point out that prior to last year, my friend Nagi was the one who found and booked cons. I would just fork over whatever my share of the room and gas was and go with her. Add to this the fact that most of the cons I saw in the Dealer’s Room were already cons I knew about, and had attended previously, and the world was much smaller to me. I had figured I would just go to the cons I had been to and hope to scrape by with enough replies for a good random sample.
Katsucon was the first one I actually had to make arrangements for myself. I needed to find my own way down there, preregister, scout a hotel room and make sure I had enough space in my bags to carry all my gear. I also had a time crunch -about 3 weeks- before the con went down. So, needless to say, I was caught with my proverbial pants down. I would have written the con off, but I knew that I needed to at least see what I was getting myself into, and hopefully have a chance to throw around a few surveys and as a test run. Fortunately, my dumb luck had managed to kick in.
I mentioned earlier that part of the reason Nekocon 2008 had been such a flyby was that I spent a good chunk of it working for a vendor. Well, before I left I asked him if he ever needed help at other cons. He, of course, said yes, and that he would gladly accept whatever assistance I could offer him. Fast forward to January 2009, and I drop him a line on the off chance that he had space for Katsu. He did. He also had a food budget, rooms and badges. Just like that, my problems vanished. I had an “in” for Katsu that would save me a chunk of money and get me on the floor faster.
Katsucon wasn’t quite the success I had hoped for it. I admittedly had very low standards going in, and I missed them all. I didn’t bring questionnaires with me, as they weren’t even edited by that point. I conducted one interview (with my boss), but no time to set any up with attendees. I got so little sleep, I could barely function. But, as with anything in life, Katsu was a learning experience. I learned exactly how much stress my body could take. I learned how fast paced a larger con could be. I learned more than my fair share about expenses, booking for travel and time budgeting. I also learned that I was woefully underprepared for any real research, and I needed to haul up before Anime Boston came around.
Thankfully, I was ready for that one.