For this interview activity, we will work in pairs. Each of you will act as both interviewer and informant. Select an interesting artifact that your partner is either wearing or carrying: a key chain, a piece of jewelry, an item of clothing. You may want to ask if your partner wants to talk about something else that s/he thinks to be of more importance. Both partners should be sure the artifact is one the owner feels comfortable talking about. If, for example, the interviewer says, “Tell me about that pin you are wearing,” but the informant knows that her watch has more meaning or her bookbag holds a story, the interviewer should follow her lead. Once you’ve each chosen an artifact, try the following process. Begin by writing observational and personal notes as a form of background research before interviewing:
- Take observational notes. Take quiet time to inspect, describe, and take notes on your informant’s artifact. Pay attention to its form and speculate about its function. Where do you think it comes from? What is it used for?
- Take personal notes. What does it remind you of? What do you already know about things similar to it? How does it connect to your own experience? What are your hunches about the artifact? In other words, what assumptions do you have about it? (For example, you may be taking notes on someone’s ring and find yourself speculating about how much it costs and whether the owner of the artifact is wealthy.) It is important here to identify your assumptions and not mask them.
- Interview the informant; ask questions and take notes on the story behind the artifact. What people are involved in it? Why is it important to them? How does the owner use it? Value it? What’s the cultural background behind it? After recording your informant’s responses, read your observational notes to each other to verify or clarify the information.