31 January 2011

Interviewing: The Art of Conversation

I've been reading about interviewing for my prep class.  Here are the most interesting points:
Always ask for permission to record personal interviews and to take notes.
This made me wonder how I will go about recording my interviews in India.  Perhaps I should bring a small machine because I don't want to take copious notes all the time.
Unstructured interviewing is excellent for building initial rapport with people.
I totally did that!  When I was originally talking to Norbu on Skype and Facebook.
There comes a point where they leave behind the feelings of uncertainty and anxiety to enter the fullblown stage of exploration.  It may occur when each laughs at something said, when the informant seems to go off on an interesting tangent, or when the ethnographer mentally sets aside prepared questions to talk about something.  
This came after Jay told me to work on establishing rapport, and I had the best Skype chat with Norbu that I've ever had.

In time, the rapport process moves into the next state--cooperation . . . .  Instead of uncertainty, the ethnographer and informant know what to expect of one another.
This was a gradual process, but I'll use our first video interview with Norbu as the evidence of this step in the interviewing rapport process.
The informant recognizes and accepts the role of teaching the ethnographer.
Finally, Norbu decided that he could use our interest to his advantage, and he used our interview as a way to tell the world about the Tibetan situation.  He also indicated his interest in looking over my research proposal and final project with the intent of helping me.

I've had some pretty great practice already in building rapport and interviewing, though I have a way to go to refine my skills.  I want to work on asking questions (called "grand tour" and "mini tour") that will result in long, descriptive answers.

One idea for "grand tour" interview question:
Could you describe a typical school day at the TCV?

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