Archive for February, 2010

Not So Bad

Prior to the peer interview experience the position I was most worried about was the interviewer position.  I was afraid that I would run out of questions 10 minutes in and have to scramble to fill 30 more minutes.  I was also not quite sure where the interview would go because it’s not like I could have googled my partners to find out where they went to school and what they have done for the majority of their lives because we are still pretty young.  I was also aware of the equipment that I would be using during the interview and that seemed to make it much more of a formal thing than a simple conversation.

I volunteered to interview first and was surprised at how comfortable I was with the recorders and the microphone.  It was much easier than I imagined to think in the moment and ask follow up questions or write new questions to ask about later.  It was definitely more formal than a normal conversation because I still had the thought in my mind that the interview did need to last a certain amount of time, but there were lots of topics to discuss once I learned more about Meagan.  Most of the interview was about her project and I also asked about how she became interested in teaching and education.  I took an interest in her topic and her work as a private tutor, so I was genuinely curious about her possible research which made it easy to think of more questions to ask.

I tought indexing would be the easiest position, which it sort of was, but I found myself starting to forget that I had to take notes and I just started listening to the interview.  Lindsey had a lot of information about the history of fife and drum so I kind of sat and listened, but then I remembered I was supposed to be actively involved too.  With indexing in class for the first interview I found myself doing the same thing; I became an audience member rather than a member of the interviewing team.  I really need to work on engaging more when indexing and focusing on the topics.

Being interviewed was also something I was nervous about, which is strange because I’ve had many interviews, some of which were very important.  I feel like I’ve always done well in interviews but this was different because this one was not going to determine if I got a job or scholarship, it was purely to get information.  Also, the recording equipment was on my mind the entire time, I was more conscious of it when being interviewed than when I was the interviewer.  Lindsey was good about asking follow up questions to most of the things I talked about.  Meagan was also good about thinking of questions to ask after Lindsey was done.  I mostly talked about living on the West Coast and how swimming has influenced me.  Some of the questions Lindsey asked I hadn’t really given a thought to before, so when I paused to think of an answer I felt awkward because I knew the recorder was running.

I enjoyed interviewing the most out of all the positions because I felt more in control and I didn’t feel like I had anything important to say when I was interviewed.  I’m assuming this interview is going to be different from future ones though, because we are all peers and we are all girls.  Interviewing someone older could be intimidating and I might feel inexperienced as an interviewer.  I think it is usually easier to connect initially with someone your own age and gender so the first part of the interview is more comfortable.  As you get to know your interviewee I’m sure the interview will get better, but I’m still a bit nervous about interviewing someone I’ve never met.

Preliminary Interview Questions

Life History:

–      As a teen growing up in Williamsburg, where did you spend most of your time? How have these places changed?

–      Which high school did you attend? Were there multiple? How does having multiple high schools affect the presence of a “teenage community” growing up in Williamsburg?

–      What was your, and possibly your peers, regard of William and Mary growing up? Was there a noticeable dynamic between Williamsburg teens and William and Mary students of similar age?

Topic-Related:

–       Brief background of children: age, names, etc. Where do they go to high school? Where do they typically “hang out?” Do they feel that there exists in Williamsburg a place that they are welcome to meet up with friends?  Do they frequent New Town? Have they ever had any stand-out experiences, positive or negative, there?

–       Can you recall ever feeling discriminated against as a teen in Williamsburg, in Colonial W or elsewhere? How has your relationship with this place (if it exists) changed as you’ve matured?

–       What is your regard of the teenage population in Williamsburg now? Especially regarding their presence in New Town and CW?

Preliminary Interview Questions

Preliminary Interview Questions for Jennifer Taylor:

Life History Questions:

1. What made you move to Williamsburg? Was it William and Mary? Judging by what you knew about the area, were you excited to come?

2. Where did you live when you first moved to Williamsburg? If you have moved around, what is your favorite neighborhood you’ve lived in?

3. What made you so interested in German Studies and Holocaust Studies? Do you find others with similar interests in the Williamsburg community?

Project Related Questions:

1. How do you feel about the gated communities that exist in Williamsburg? Do you visit them often? If so, for what reasons?

2. What community actives are your children involved in? Do they spend time at any “community centers”? Where do they like to spend time in Williamsburg?

3. Do you consider your neighborhood a place with it’s own sense of community? Do any particular type of people seem to live there? Does your neighborhood have a Homeowners Association? Does your neighborhood have a community pool or community center?

Transcription Reaction– Bert Geddy

The indexing was hard the first time just because Mr. Geddy’s voice was unclear in some sections. Also, because I really didn’t know what to expect, I indexed some things that were definitely not the most important parts of the interview. However, the index did help with the transcription and vice versa. Looking back into the transcribed interview I was able to edit my initial indexed records to get a more complete timeline.

The transcribing was of course far more difficult than the indexing. It is definitely a tedious process that requires patience and a keen ear to be able to discern certain phrases. When I couldn’t tell what Mr. Geddy was saying, I would repeat the phrase a number of times. I would then listen to the next few seconds of the interview in case some later contextual clues could help me identify what he was saying. This strategy worked in a number of places—but in some I just really could not discern his message. Another way I utilized contextual clues was to use google to help me identify certain passages. Mr. Geddy spoke of some department stores in Richmond that he used to go to. After failing at constructing a perfect recreation of his pronunciation, I turned to google and searched “department stores in Richmond in the 1950s.” The top two results were the names he spoke of in his answer.

I chose to include most nuances—“um”’s and “uh”’s were mostly transcribed in my record. However I avoided most attempts at recording Mr. Geddy’s accent. He had a few strange tendencies such as saying “aboot” rather than “about,” and I believe when mentioned cub scouts and boy scouts he pronounced it in a very almost Scottish way. I have never met Mr. Geddy but his otherwise Southern sound and the history of his family in Toano suggests that he probably would have neither a Canadian nor a Scottish accent. I did include some common abbreviations such as “‘em” for “them” and “wanna” for “want to.”

My interviewer did a good job besides the fact that I don’t believe I caught her name in my segment of the recording at least. She spoke very little and allowed Mr. Geddy to go on for minutes at a time, which, depending on her topic, wasn’t necessarily bad because Mr. Geddy did stay pretty much on target to her question without many random tangents. She seemed interested in a Mr. Melvin Bryant that both Mr. Geddy and a previous interviewee had mentioned, but when Mr. Geddy began talking about him she led him in a different direction by asking a different type of question. Again, depending on her topic this could have been useful to her, but I felt that her main questions were fairly similar— describing your youth and the town you grew up in are questions that are largely intertwined. Overall I thought she did a good job, and that Mr. Geddy was a good participant in an interview that could have proved very useful to her.

Record of my proposed Communal Interview Questions

Barry Trott Interview: I framed my interview questions within a few topics that I want to focus on, and I may alter some questions a bit depending on what Barry says in Andy’s portion of the interview.

Topic 1: Definition of “local”- what it means to be a “local”/ “local” musician in Williamsburg, and what region(s) does “Williamsburg” encompass?

  • (Andy asked about your involvement in the local musical community), would you consider yourself to be a “local” Williamsburg artist?
    • Would you identify yourself as a “Williamsburg” musician?
  • What qualifies someone as a “local” musician?
    • Do you have to reside in Williamsburg? Or just have to have community ties? Or perform in Williamsburg?
    • (For instance, one of your band members, I believe, lives in Richmond- is he still considered a “local” musician? Why or why not?)

Topic 2: Dynamics of the music community, or community of musicians, in Williamsburg- how they network/interact/communicate

(*Pay attention to his response to Andy’s question asking about the communities/networks he belongs to, and also about his involvement in the local musical community)

  • I am interested in learning more about the community of musicians in Williamsburg. Would you like to share anything about your relationships/experience with other “long-term” or “local” Williamsburg musicians?
    • Have you gotten to know other artists who perform/reside in the Williamsburg area?
    • Is there much interaction/communication between musicians?

Topic 3: Changes he has experienced- he has been in contact with the area of Williamsburg for a considerable period of time- I want to ask about what musical changes he has experienced

(*Did he mention any musical changes I want to ask a follow up Q about when he responded to Andy’s question about changes in venues?)

  • Has the nature of performances or the communal aspect of musical performance and sharing music changed throughout your experience in Williamsburg?
  • How has the Williamsburg community and being here influenced your musical style?
    • (Could ask about how the band started and music experiences in college; could inquire about the Friends of Appalachian Music Ensemble.)

*May want to ask him about how he feels about the music “scenes” or lack of “scenes” in Williamsburg throughout the years?

*There were several other topics I wanted to cover or delve into further… but if this goes well and he is willing and interested, perhaps we can do a follow-up interview later on this semester! I am also looking forward to seeing his band, the Runaway String Band, play tomorrow night at Squires Everyday Gourmet!!

More information at:

http://www.runawaystringband.com/

http://www.squiresgourmet.com/

Transcription

The transcription process went much faster than I was expecting it to.  My computer has play and pause buttons right above the keyboard, so it was easy to start and stop the recording.  The main challenge for me was trying to decipher certain words or strings of words that the interviewee was saying.  It sounded like a mumble to me so I typed words that I could pick out, but then I would write “mumble” in parenthesis to show the loss of the dialogue.  Sometimes the interviewee was saying the name of a place and I could not understand what he said, and because I am not from Virginia I could not even guess a city or place.  I tried to show his accent when he said the word ” ’bout” for about and   ” ’em” for them.  I also included “uh” and “um” and tried to show pauses with the “…”.  I realize after transcribing that it is important to make an effort to speak clearly and not too fast so words do not slur together.

Preliminary Interview Questions

Life-History:

Where is your favorite place to socialize or to “go out” in Williamsburg? What do you consider to be the center of the night-life here? Why is this place so popular or entertaining?

Does your family live in Williamsburg as well? If so, what brought them here? If not, do they visit you often? What do they think of, or how do they view, the town?

What about Williamsburg is most valuable to you? Is there any aspect of the town that you would personally like to change?

Project Specific:

How did you hear about an opportunity to come to Williamsburg? What motivated you to decide to come to Virginia as opposed to elsewhere?

Can you describe to me a typical day at your work? Do you have a schedule, and what does that schedule look like? Or do you engage in several different tasks?

When did you first come to Williamsburg? How has the experience of working here changed since your first job? Would you ever plan on staying in Williamsburg for a long-term period?

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Transcription Whirlwind

The main problem I encountered while trying to transcribe my excerpt was evident in my first ten minutes of effort. As soon as I started to get comfortable using the voice editing software, specifically the repeat function (which was a godsend; I am very bad at multi-tasking so closing a window to replay a file would have possibly doubled the time it took to transcribe), I noticed that I kept getting muddled when dealing with the structure of my interview: mainly, that there were two interviewee’s present. As soon as I could focus my attention on the stream of consciousness of one of the subjects, the other would jump in with a completely different thought. It completely distracted my typing and then I would lose control of the narrative and have to start the segment over.

I did not have too much trouble with accents or dialect—it was easy enough to just type everything in standard English unless it was clearly regional. I would get kind of hung-up on documenting pauses or stuttering, but near the end of the transcription I would just rely on the use of brackets and a [Pause] to indicate disruptions. Really the only times either of these fairly manageable issues were highlighted was when many voices would enter into the conversation and I would strive to document them all. Thus, I would end up spending like ten minutes on two sections of monologue, but then spend the next half-hour on thirty seconds of rambled conversation. I think I need to focus on perhaps getting down the basic idea or a summary of what every subject is contributing and how the interviewer is shaping the questions and directing the dialogue, and then go back and fill in the intricacies. If I didn’t do that, again, I would just lose track of any semblance of narrative structure and then go for more coffee.

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As for the actually content of the interview, I was fairly impressed with how the interviewer crafted the interaction. I was especially fond of the responses she would give to her subjects. They were always very positive feedback and encouraged more discussion; however, she never interrupted someone and limit their expression of a certain story. She mentioned her personal tie (the Bradshaw’s son) several times and reminded the couple why exactly she was there. She did seem, though, to perhaps get wrapped up in tangential comments at points. I cannot be certain of this however because I am not quite sure of the scope or the intent of the interview.

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I think one ambiguity that I did encounter quite frequently was the issue on how to render inaudible segments of the interview. I never omitted any sounds that I heard, but I did take some license and used contextual evidence to make a best guess of certain phrases. Specifically, A.G would sometimes trail off into somewhat incoherent descriptions where only certain words were possible to make out on the tape, so I would just embellish with what I thought were the proper prepositions. I never inserted a word that wasn’t indicated at somehow, but I would like to know when it is appropriate to just gloss over something and call it mumbling. I also frequently used the bracket [Interrupting]. I am not sure if this is common practice at all and would like that clarified. It seemed important to fill in those inaudible blanks and indicate that someone cut someone off mid-sentence considering the confusing structure of the multiple-subject interview which I have previously discussed.

Preliminary Interview Questions

When did you learn to play mandolin and guitar?  What prompted you to do so?

When did you come to Williamsburg?  How has it changed since you came to the city?

Which do you enjoy more- playing music in Colonial Williamsburg or playing with your string band?  Why?

What is your favorite performance memory?

No doubt your daughter had to be put on a waiting list for the fife and drum corps at a very early age.  What prompted you to put her on that list?

Would you describe your daughter’s experience in the corps as a positive one?

Preliminary Interview Questions

Since you teach another language, how do you feel this outlet to another culture influences your perception of culture in Williamsburg?

How has the education system in Williamsburg evolved?

After teaching at William and Mary for nearly twenty years, what changes have you seen in the William and Mary community?

After living in Williamsburg and raising a family here, what changes have you seen in the Williamsburg community economically? Demographically? Socially?

What would you say some of the perks (or non-perks) are of raising a family in Williamsburg?

What area of Williamsburg did you choose to live in? Is it considered a community of its own? Why did you decide to live in this area of Williamsburg?

Do you think you will decide to retire in Williamsburg?

Do you think your children will want to live in Williamsburg when they are adults?

How do you feel about the revival of this town? What are your opinions of places like New Town and High Street?

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About

The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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