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Interview 5

January 9, 2011

There is a challenge to doing phenomenological research when you are highly visible and open on the web. I blog. I tweet. I share things I read through Google reader. I participate in this thing called networked learning, meaning I have a heavy digital footprint. Google me and you’ll see. I am not invisible.

Which poses a challenge as I interview people for this research. If any of them Google me (as I am sure they have, being the wired in people that they are), they will see this. They will see that I am one of them. I participate. I contribute. I converse. I am on Twitter. Which I think might make these interviews a bit more difficult. If they do Google me and do a bit of research on me in the time between when I contact them and they agree & we do the interview, they will see that I am active on Twitter, perhaps with some of the same people they are. I run with their crowd. So, do they come into the interview with an expectation that I am like them in the respect that I use Twitter and appear to have a PLN? When they answer a question I pose to them, are they speaking to me as a peer with their responses molded to what they may perceive to me my level of knowledge with the practice they are undertaking?

As phenomenological research, I am the naive participant. I come to the subject with fresh eyes. I am doing my best to bracket my personal opinions during the interviews and keep as neutral as possible. But I sometimes get the feeling that the answers I get are hedged in this opinion some of the participants may have about me and my prior level of knowledge. They are speaking to the networked learner Clint and not the researcher Clint.

Participant 5 shared some great stories with me and then went so far as to post on Twitter to their network and ask them to chime in with their opinion as to what they thought made Twitter different than other tools for connecting with their PLN. During the interview, there were a few moments of “you know”, which, when I hear in an interview I seem to be interpreting as both a mental pause for the participant and, more importantly, a trigger for me that says they believe they are speaking to someone who knows.

I wonder if this causes some dissonance with the participants when I interview them and present myself as the neutral observer, naively questioning things that, to them, must seem like obvious things I should know or understand.

I find it difficult not to share with them. To, in the words of my supervisor, co-create knowledge with them during this process. Sometimes they ask me questions, which I answer as honestly as I can in order to keep them comfortable, but the whole time I answer a question I wonder if I am influencing their answers? How could I not be, really. In this interview, for example, the participant shared a wonderful story with me about the value of being open and public on the web in these networked spaces. Which led into a brief conversation between me and the participant about a shared person we knew and a project they had undertaken. I won’t know until after I go back and fully transcribe the interview, but I sensed that maybe something changed after that moment with the participant. As if the stories suddenly came a bit easier and less tentative than before. Perhaps this was because of the way I responded to that story that there was a moment in the participants head when she went  “okay, that is what he wants” based on my reaction to her story. But it could also be that we had suddenly found a shared connection, someone we both knew that made her more comfortable to answer the questions.


From → Thesis Research

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