When meeting with Erin’s friend, Manissa, the oral historian, we learned interview techniques and how to be engaged in conversation. When we begin to interview those who have been evicted, it can be an extremely emotional conversation to be had. We understand that sometimes people do not wish to go into the traumatic details, so an interview skill we learned is to allow the interviewee lead the conversation by actively listening to them and asking follow up questions. Listening is perhaps the most essential skill we will need to have productive interviews and to guide the interviewee towards the stories we want to get at. We want those who were evicted to know and feel that we are listening to their story, and that it is extremely important. Manissa was extremely helpful in guiding us through what exactly oral history is and how to properly go about allowing people to open up on tape. We learned that prep is essential. Before going in to the interview, we must have a release form, a theme to base the conversation around, and perhaps a few basic questions and topics to go over with the interviewee off the record. The interview should typically start at the beginning, with the person describing basic background information and a bit about their childhood. From there on, we must listen and let the interviewee guide the conversation. After her information session, we all practiced interviewing. It was good to put to use the information we just learned. Going into the actual interviews in the near future, we feel very prepared and excited to help share people’s stories.
During the GIS workshop we were provided with introductory instruction on several different mapping programs that are options for our project. We were drawn towards Google Maps Tours and GIS Online because of the more attractive and user-friendly interface that would be able to reach a wider audience. We were able to get a basic knowledge of the programs during the workshop so that we will be able to start using with relative ease. Although we have narrowed our search for mapping software down to Google Maps Tours and GIS Online, we have still not decided which one of those to use and our next step is to spend time using each of those programs to figure out which one will be the best fit to represent our data set.
The other primary work we are gearing up to accomplish is selecting the specific people to be interviewed. After the GIS workshop, we have a better sense of how these stories can be visually and spatially represented, which will influence how we think about which stories to connect and juxtapose. Additionally, after meeting with Manissa, we are thinking about these stories in slightly new ways. She defined oral history as a tool for filing in the gaps in the “big man’s” history, and also noted that people’ personal stories will serve as the textures of these maps. With these ideas in mind, we will go about (this weekend) selecting those people from the surveys who seem, collectively, to represent aspects of the eviction story that are most salient and/or underrepresented. Natasha also attended the “Ghost Stories” event last Friday in the Mission and got a glimpse into what kind of histories we might be recording. She was struck by how some of the community members knew one another through their shared experiences, and how much of a sense of solidarity and support could be felt in that space. Many times throughout the night, speakers told members of the audience, “Call me when the cops come to remove you from your home, I will stand beside you.” The two dominant groups of people represented were those who had grown up in San Francisco and those who were transplants, who had found their “chosen families” in this city. We believe that representing both of these populations will provide a holistic representation of the ways in which San Francisco is home to people, and therefore what loss of home means to different people in the city.
We have made progress this week, but are still in the preliminary stages of the project. This week we will continue researching the social media storytelling platforms to decide which one is best fit for our project. We will also more thoroughly GIS Online and Google Maps Tours to decide which mapping program we will use to continue on with our project. We will also browse through the data to select several candidates for interviews whose stories we believe would be particularly impactful. Our goal is that after we have met with Erin and Julia next week, we will have decided what mapping program and storytelling social media program we are going to work with so that we will be able to start gathering interviews and videos and making more tangible progress towards completing our project.
- Natasha, Caroline, Jordan