The Tech Interactive | Week 7 Reflection
Alisha: To this end, I met with Elijah, the head chef at Narnia, to discuss his relationship to food, produce, and sustainability in general. My initial talk with him was fascinating and I think there will be a lot of potentially useful content. Elijah was so incredibly knowledgeable about sustainable agriculture and the passion he has for his job, and life, in general, was beyond infectious. He is extremely deliberate about the choices he makes both inside and outside of the kitchen, making sure to responsibly source all of his produce, to treat all of his produce with respect, and to minimize wastage. After talking with him for a couple of hours, he seemed incredibly excited about the prospect of being included in the community voices exhibit and, as such, I am extremely excited to interview him. I am currently in the process of scheduling a formal interview time with him, however, I want to wait until after our group meeting on Sunday to make any firm plans.
Reflecting on my experience speaking with Elijah, both Elijah and I are very talkative and easily distracted. As such, I anticipate that many of the follow-up questions I ask during the interview will need to be both succinct and direct—I am cautious of having to sift through too much audio in the editing process! Furthermore, Elijah does not typically allow people to audio record him and, as such, is a little nervous about the formalities of the process. For this reason, I think that my decision to meet before the interview and establish a more genuine connection was very productive. This being said, I still anticipate that the interview will take quite some time due to the need to re-record audio.
Throughout the weekend, I will be reviewing and utilizing, the notes from my conversation with Elijah to construct potential interview questions which I hope to run by the group at our meeting on Sunday. Additionally, I will be working to follow up with my other main lead—a family affected by the recent California wildfires.
Natalie: During this week, I was able to make progress on finding a lead. I'm really excited about this lead as it incorporates two of my interests, environmental justice and farming. After class on Wednesday, I attended Haleh Zandi's lecture at the Stanford O'Donohue Educational Farm. This lecture was a part of the environmental justice speaker series that is being hosted by Emily Polk and Sibyl Diver for their Introduction to Environmental Justice course. Haleh is the co-founder and co-director of the Bay Area organization, Planting Justice. Planting Justice's motto is "grow food, grow jobs, grow community" and they operate a nursery, urban farm and community gardens throughout Oakland and the greater Bay Area. Their organization is unique in that they focus specifically on trying to hire formally incarcerated people and do what they can to support those who are excessively negatively effected by mass incarceration. I had a chance to speak to Haleh after her lecture and explained our project to her. She seemed really excited and interested in participating and being interviewed. I think this could be a really promising lead, however there is one caveat. After some email correspondence Haleh suggested November 21st as the date when we could conduct the interview. However, this is during the week right before Thanksgiving break which was our team and Danny's goal for when we should have all the interviews conducted by. I'm going to check and see if Haleh would be able to do an earlier date, however if not I think this would be a good thing to discuss with Danny about whether or not it would be okay to conduct this interview so late or if it should be a lead that should be left for the Tech Interactive team to follow up on later.
Keona: This week, I went to the Downtown Palo Alto farmers’ Market and interviewed two farmers, Ben and Lisa. Through this field work, we learned a lot about the interview process and what we need to collect at the next farmers’ market we attend. Reflecting on my interviewing skills, I need to be more assertive––though I am glad that I was conscious of their circumstances and needs. At this point I need to find a balance between assertiveness and consideration, and in the case of the farmers’ market, I feel I could have been more of the former. For Ben’s interview, for instance, he began a sentence with “It has been…” instead of “Climate change has been…”; Unfortunately, I did notice during Ben’s the interview that his first sentence was not a complete one––which the Handbook explains to avoid by asking the interviewee to repeat the sentence as a complete one––but I did not quite know how to interrupt him or follow up on it, especially since he immediately turned around and went back to helping his coworkers pack up after he finished talking. I will adjust accordingly and preface my interview questions with multiple requests to speak in complete sentences with defined subjects. Danny recommended us to treat the handbook as a checklist for future interviews, which is a necessary adjustment I will make. As for the next farmers’ market, we will collect ambient recordings for to include in Lisa and Ben’s interviews and take more photos of vegetables, signage, hands, etc for the slideshows for the Downtown Palo Alto market interviews. (Assuming, of course that we set the context of the story as a farmer's market).
As for Lisa's interview, it was also tough to try to re-record, as I caught her at a time when no one was at her stand, and just as she was wrapping up story, someone walked up to the stand and she directed her attention to them. A plausible solution to finding the right window of time during which we can avoid getting in the way of their sales is by showing up to the market very early (the Saturday one starts at 8am), when I suspect there won’t be many people, or as they are packing up. Lisa’s story is also difficult in that though she shares interesting and specific details about how her farm is adapting to climate change, she speaks very quickly and her story jumps around. This is something I will coach my interviewees on in the future (e.g. asking them to pause for a few seconds after they share a thought.
Discussion on Ethics, Compensation
Natalie: It seems as though this issue of compensation and informing interviewees about what an interview exactly entails is something that the Tech Interactive team has not thought much about. Therefore, Danny requested our help with trying to create some type of packet that we can give to participants of this project. Our group has planned to meet up on Sunday to formulate these packets and hope to include free museum tickets, museum contact information and potential compensation. We have yet to finalize what exact compensation amount will be adequate. However, we will be discussing this topic during a phone call with Danny and Deland tomorrow during which we will hopefully be able to land on an appropriate amount. Ultimately, I think we are progressing well with our project as everyone seems to be following leads and in the starting phases of editing the climate strike interviews. I am really appreciative of all the work that both Danny and Deland have put into supporting our group throughout this project and am really excited and optimistic about the outcome!
Keona: Regarding ethics, we realized that the existing waiver form system of the Tech Interactive is a largely one-way exchange of contact that could potentially limit the conversation between the Tech and community members involved in the exhibit. At the bottom of the waiver, there is an optional section for the interviewee to jot down their contact information if they would like to be contacted about the project. To open up further dialogue and inqury from the interviewee, we are expanding our process to include a pamphlet/flyer that includes Community Voices project members' contact information and more information about the project in an attempt to make the informed consent facet of research more effective in the form of a two-way dialogue. In terms of community engagement in the form of developing survey instruments and data collection, and in light of Joann Tien's lecture on the ethics of Participatory Action research, we are obligated to inform participants about the purpose of the story collection, the limits of confidentiality, incentives for participation, and who participants can contact with questions. We plan to discuss incentives further, particularly the standardization of compensation; continue this conversation of ethics; and compile information into a pamphlet this Sunday night at our team meeting.
Priya: This week we had a fruitful discussion with Danny around the ethics of interviewing and how we can make the process more transparent and open. Top of mind for me this week was thinking of best practices from a liability and research participant perspective. With regards to the former (liability), I think it is of utmost importance that the waiver be comprehensive and that we are fully transparent when interviewing individuals. I would not want the Tech Interactive to get in trouble or face any backlash if someone has the expectation that their story will be included in the Tech. Whenever money/compensation is brought into the picture, liability also becomes more important to consider.
Secondly, I am viewing our interviewees almost like research participants, who deserve ample rights when participating in any research study. It is our responsibility as stewards of the Tech Interactive to make our interviewees aware that they can contact Danny/the Tech with any further questions, etc. I wonder if we can provide the interviewees with the audio file after it is edited (as we had discussed), as an additional incentive to participate. I can imagine many interviewees would want this to add to their personal portfolio of work. This is a less pressing issue, but something we could potentially work on.
Alisha: Following on from our discussion with Danny, Zac, and Sarah, I spent a significant amount of time reflecting on how best to approach my story leads and how to ensure that they were adequately compensated for their time. At this stage in our process, I did not feel comfortable promising any sum of money to my interviewees and, as such, decided that the best approach would be to schedule an initial ‘informal’ talk before the actual interview. This way I thought that I could remain transparent throughout the interview process and establish a rapport with my respective leads before the recording. (I do, of course, understand that this approach is not always possible!)
Alisha: Overall, I am very happy with the progress that we are making as a group. I am very aware of the fact that our project, and deliverables, are entirely reliant upon the contribution of external peoples and, as such, it can be difficult to get the ball rolling. That being said, I have been extremely impressed by the pro-activeness of each member of my group and I have certainly started to feel things fall into place over the last few weeks–I truly cannot wait to see all of our hard work come to fruition.
Additionally, I wanted to acknowledge how grateful I am to be able to engage with a group of individuals who are so thoughtful and deliberate in the decisions that they make. The detailed discussions that we have had on the ethics of the interview process only serve to highlight the commitment that we each have for this project, and its mission, and, personally, that has been beyond refreshing! I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support and understanding throughout my periods of ill health. I am aware that it can be very difficult to have a group member who is not consistently present and I really appreciate all that you have done to facilitate my continued involvement.
Priya: I am excited to accelerate the interviewing and audio editing process. I am cognizant of the fact that we still do not have audio editing software to revise the summer audio samples. I hope that we can get access to that soon in order to have everything complete. I feel better after this week's discussions to move forward with the ultimate goal of generating great interviews.