Update on Project Activities
This week we gathered as our full team for the first time, and met our community partner contact from the Tech Interactive, Danny. During our kickoff meeting in class on Monday, we had a chance to introduce ourselves and our motivations behind joining the project to each other. In this process we were able to see plenty of overlap in our interests and our goals for the project, both in terms of what we want to produce and in terms of personal skills development, etc. Namely, we share a common interest in engaging with climate/environmental crises on a personal basis, and in developing journalism skills through our interviewing and editing.
We also learned from Danny about some of the most recent work that’s happened for the project. Two summer interns have passed on to us a handbook for conducting our interviews and continuing to help sculpt the exhibit. We began thinking about how to most efficiently use our time in resources over the course of the quarter, especially by beginning to hone in on the groups of people we might be most interested in collecting stories from. The last interns focused on collecting stories from everyday people - folks who might not think about or engage with climate change conversations on a regular basis, but who nonetheless of course have experiences to share about their interactions with natural and built environments. We share an interest in looking at stories based in the area’s indigenous communities, as we see the importance in those stories being integral to any kind of inclusive representation of Bay Area experiences with the environment.
We continued this conversation at our second meeting, where Danny also taught us how to use our recording equipment.
What We Observed and Learned
Not only did we learn about the technical components and equipment necessary to conduct high quality interviews, but we also learned about important things to keep in mind when approaching and interviewing people. First, it is essential to remain genuine and transparent about the process without setting unrealistic expectations. We discussed the importance of communicating that there is no guarantee that their story will be part of the exhibit so as not to misinform to increase the likelihood of their participation. Second, it is important to communicate key points to the interviewee, such as the importance of clarity in the interview and telling a brief story. However, we also want to reflect on and remember to be ethical journalists and refrain from framing the prompt in a way that elicits a story we are searching for. In other words, we must be aware of and avoid confirmation bias and create an environment conducive to the true manifestation of their story. Third, we have started learning about how to remain sensitive in the interview process, especially as some of the topics may be sensitive for people to discuss. This is a skill we will refine through experience interviewing people. This week, we began to understand why sensitivity and remaining humble are essential when capturing compelling narratives.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
The Community Voices project has been in progress since last year and Danny informed us that this summer there were two interns who spent multiple weeks working specifically on this project. Over the course of their internship, they were able to record 11 different interviews from various community members/experts in the field of climate change. Listening to these recorded clips was very useful as it provided us with a guideline for how we should facilitate the interviews. Zach and Sarah (the interns from this summer) asked prompting questions but overall just let their interview subjects talk for as long as they wanted which led to very lengthy raw interview footage (roughly between 30-45 minutes long). They then edited down these large chunks of raw audio footage into 2-3 minute snippets that captured an important message from the interview. We predict that having access to the before and after of their interview footage will be very helpful when we have to edit our own interviews. However, listening to the previous interviews was especially useful as it gave us a sense of whose voices have already been taken into account and whose voices are still missing.
As a group we are all excited about the prospect of getting interviews from community members whose voices are less often heard when talking about climate change, whether that be young people, low-income people, people of color or even just people for whom climate change is not their area of expertise. Our most essential next steps are to reach out to people within the Bay Area community to ask if they would be interested in being interviewed. In addition to that we need to make a list of which groups we hope to focus on and brainstorm ways that we will be able to get in contact with and access these various potential interviewees.
Some challenges we are anticipating are founded primarily in the interpersonal intricacies of the conversations ahead of us, chiefly including a disclaimer in which we make clear that their story is not guaranteed to be included in the exhibit. Another challenge we anticipate is coordinating our schedules for team meetings and field work. We plan to address this challenge by splitting into two groups for certain events depending on the availability of the entire team. Learning how to ask the correct questions is a skill we anticipate to be challenging and plan to address by closely reading the handbook and notes left by previous students who worked with the Tech Interactive, and even by mastering smaller skills such as making sure the interviewee restates the question posed so that their story is cohesive and deliberate.