First of all, interviewing has been really fun. It's been definitely the most entertaining part of the process. I think it's been really wonderful to have a list of interview questions that I don't feel deeply tied to. I've been very intuitively following the method of looser interviews that don't necessarily follow a set format, but instead happened quite organically, led mainly by what the research participant says, and common experiences.
I do find that I'm also putting in a lot of the experiences I have, and including that as part of the process. When we're having an interview, it's very difficult not to go ‘oh yeah, I agree with that’ or, ‘oh yes I also experienced that’. And I wonder if that's going to have any impact on my work, and if that's something I should be taking into account from the get go.
I'm also finding that people are quite willing to be interviewed.
One of the things that's different from the proposed methodology that I had in the first place, is that people are coming with tweets and Facebook posts in mind. I'm talking more generally about the groups that we both mentioned, and asking them to point to things that they remember from those spaces, or tweets that they remember having done, which has been quite, quite useful for me.
I've begun with people who admin and have also had experiences moderating the groups that I'm interested in. Those I know have also got a fairly strong Twitter presence, and then asking those people to tell me who their top five Most Influential Twitter Users are, and then having them talk back to the reasons why they think those people are influential. The reason why I'm not necessarily presenting them with images of their tweets is because they are from so long ago. So I do think asking them what they thought were influential examples of the kinds of tweets that happened in those groups has been really useful is distilling what is memorable about those groups and spaces. I will possibly go through those spaces afterwards, and find tweets that are useful to then bring back to them and ask them to reflect on later.
Because as I've explained, I embody this space, I'm both subject and participant in these spaces. So I do a lot of semi structured interview. And while I've only recently started doing this, in fact, I've done about four now, but with these recorded conversations, I'll share my references later. But there was a really wonderful group that called these dialogic recorded conversations rather than interviews or semi structured interviews, I've been trying to take that sort of principle into what I do here.
So I participate in these conversations, I embody both the role of interviewer and interviewee, matching the openness and vulnerability of other participants and openly sharing reflections about data collection with the participants. The benefits of doing this allow space for my self reflection on my dual role as participant and researcher, and as a member of the marginal spaces of black radical knowledge production, as well as the fact that I belong to the traditional Academy. So I'm trying to disrupt traditional paradigms of researcher versus researched, centering Patricia Hill Collins’ articulation of black feminist thought, by privileging voices of black women and their right to self definition. And particularly my own perspective as the outsider within this perspective, is defined by Collins as a sociological positioning the black women experience through simultaneous marginalization and immersion in the white male insider-ism in the field of sociology, or academia, and in wider academia. So I'm aware, my research, participants are aware, we can both see each other, we can both see that we're both black women. And you know, that does become part of the kind of conversations we are having.
I also have to be very careful. And I think this is an important part, that we don't over identify with each other. It is a double edged sword, because it's both really helpful to the research to have someone who you can assume understands what you're talking about, and where you can sort of enter that part of speaking honestly and openly about your experiences, because you don't have to go through all the 101 with ‘here's what racism is like’. But it also does have the issues of perhaps over-identifying with me and feeling that certain things don't even need to be said, because we both understand. So that's something I have to be very careful with, because that's quite a large responsibility that I'm taking, you know, perhaps they wouldn't share this kind of information with a non black researcher. And therefore, that's my responsibility then to be careful about where I share that, because if they wouldn't share it with a, you know, with a white researcher, well, that's what the academy looks like. Whilst we have a shared experience, and I want that shared experience, it’s the reason why I'm able to do this research, the reason why I'm able to have access to these conversations, it also does come with responsibility.