Monday, November 2, 2009

Project update: 3 interviews in the bag

For Howard's research class tomorrow morning, I'm supposed to provide a report on the first interview for our project.  Well, I've completed three interviews since I last posted here, so I'll use this space to talk about the process and the progress.  Read on for more!

So far, I've interviewed:
  1. Mark Thiessen Nation
  2. Peter Dula
  3. Heidi Miller Yoder
I'm still waiting to interview Lisa Shirch, but she's insanely busy and has been somewhat of a CJP celebrity recently with her work in DC and getting an op-ed piece published in Sojourner's (annoying but free reg. required).  I really would like to interview her since she's the only faculty member I've chosen to interview that's teaching in a non-religious department.  At the end of last week she looked like she was about ready to collapse.  Her office is right across from mine, and she was in today, but I didn't bug her because I assumed she was digging out from a mountain of work.  An exhausted interview subject wouldn't be very good for anyone involved, anyway.

So, a note on the interview subjects thus far.  Since Mark is my theology professor at seminary and my neighbor, I've had over a year now to get to know him pretty well.  I love to chat with him whenever we pass on the hall or on the hill near our residence, and we usually end up talking for a good while.    For a licensing gift suggestion from my home congregation (Prairie City Church of the Brethren, in P.C., IA), he recommended a phenomenal 2-volume commentary on Matthew that I'm very excited to start digging into (even the preface to vol. 1 is awesome).  So I like talking to the guy, and this interview with him was no different.  I ended up learning quite a bit that I didn't know before about his spiritual journey toward theological study and teaching.  The tone was very conversational and light, and we ended up laughing a good deal.  The interview lasted for just over 30 minutes and was filmed in his office, which is floor-to-ceiling books (he's a walking bibliography/card catalog).

Peter, I don't know hardly at all, so of course our interview was a bit more stop-and-start, but I still ended up enjoying our discussion, which also lasted about 30 minutes.  I hope to run into Peter in other discussions/projects while I'm here, because he's doing some neat stuff with a bike cooperative that's being run out of the basement of the Bible & Religion dept.'s house/offices on campus.  I've seen him walking around the campus community garden, too, so I think he's connected with some earthy initiatives out and about.

The interview with Heidi was incredible.  She's very bright and articulate, and was able to weave her personal narrative into some amazing reflections on Anabaptist theology toward the end of our interview.  I think some of the stuff that she talked about on film could easily be used in some seminary marketing materials for promoting theological education at EMS, because it was just great thoughts she was putting out there!

Finally, some reflections on myself, the interviewer, in the process.  I went into each interview with four guiding questions, with no emergency follow-up questions.  With Mark and Heidi, I didn't really need any of the follow-up questions to help out, but it might have been nice with Peter, to keep the conversation moving a bit more fluidly.  Also, I'm afraid I talk too much (which is no surprise) while forming my questions.  Since my questions are pretty broad in scope, I must feel like I have to tell the back-story to each question, and I end up pontificating too long.  I need to work on this, for sure.  Tighter, more focused, opening questions would certainly help here.  More interview experience would surely help with helping keep follow-up questions coming, too.

One last thing: transcribing.  I let each interview subject know that I would type up a transcription of each interview and send it to them for their editorial feedback.  However, I'm starting to wonder if this is even feasible due to the long, long amount of time that transcriptions take.  I'm weighing the possibility of skipping the transcription (with subject consent) and offering editorial control later in the process, once I have some of the video pieces together.  The subject matter of the interviews is fairly personal, but hasn't included the kind of things that I imagine any of these folks would want to hide.  Especially because they were notified that this stuff would make it out to this blog and YouTube anyway.

In closing, this project has already been fun, and I'm looking forward to entering the next phase: editing.  Until then...

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