Doing (ethnographic) interviews

I found this video on ethnographic interviewing techniques and “getting people to talk” on the American Anthrodesign mailing list:

Getting People to Talk: An Ethnography & Interviewing Primer from Gabe & Kristy on Vimeo.

The film is made by a couple of design students at the Illinois Institute of Technology in order to give a set of interview pointers to designers wanting to conduct interviews as part of their user research. Among the interviewees are Dori Tunstall, an Associate Professor of Design Anthropology at University of Illinois at Chicago. She argues that the key to good interviewing comes from building rapport and building moments of openness between the interviewer and interviewee.

Getting people to feel comfortable talking to you, requires you as an interviewer “to be charming.” According to Tunstall, that requires a basic empathic involvement in what is being said and expressed: Being interested and building a natural flow of the conversation. In short, perhaps: Turning the interview into a conversation rather than an artificial interview situation. As the film does well to point out, the artificiality of the interview situation often shows whenever the interviewer isn’t really interested in what is being discussed, or is preoccupied with finding out specific information, or in the transitions between topics being discussed, as these often break the flow of the conversation.

As a film, I found it a bit too long, and not really very ethnographic: The interview by itself does not make it ‘ethnographic’. ‘Ethnographic’ is, as Tunstall does well to point out, rather the overall philosophical stance and empathic interest that guides your position as you consciously interpret and re-represent the interviewee’s point of view as best as you can.

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