Tag Archives: Postmodern Interviewing

Post-Interview Reflection: Michelle Wagner

Overall, the online interview via e-mail that I conducted with Michelle went well above my expectations.

I had imagined that she would provide answers that would be “sufficient,” but not long, and most likely flavored with guardedness. I can only imagine how someone might respond about details that are personal. If our interview pertained to information of the professional or clinical genre, I would expect a lengthy response as there would be no concern of privacy or disclosure.

However, since Michelle has already been an active member of  an online community (Circle of Moms), perhaps she had gotten used to opening up about personal details due to the nature of the forum, sharing them with women that she had only had online or “virtual”  conversations with. And, perhaps her frame of mind carried over into our dialogue. This is just my conjecture, but at any rate, I was glad that she was both interested in my topic and eager to share with me her experiences.

In her response, Michelle shared specifics with me about growing up being home-schooled, and how her parents would spend quality time every afternoon and evening by reading books to her and her siblings. Michelle’s parents, Stan and Linda, communicated to their kids that they cared about them enough to make it a priority to read to them every day. To Michelle, their commitment and attitude toward reading books to their kids said, “I love you.”

From my interview with Michelle, I learned that she developed a fondness for books not just because she like to read, but also because books were a physical point of connection to quality time spent with her mom and dad, and her brothers and sisters. Every child yearns and needs to know that from his or her parents. So, from Michelle’s own childhood experiences, I could see that she learned that spending quality time by reading books together was an effective way to say, “I love you”.

This was a core aspect of her emotional attachment to books, which she carried on by spending quality time with her own son and daughter reading to them.

I expected Michelle to share with me about how she read to her son, Asher, and daughter, Nyah, and what sorts of activities she enjoyed doing with them, as most moms relish sharing about their kids. For example, Michelle stated that she takes Nyah to the library every week and either she or her husband Tim reads to both children every night. But, it was background Michelle shared about on herself and what it was like growing up with books that provided me the most context; it was a surprise and a delight.

If I were to do the interview differently, I think I might have tried composed my questions on a Word document instead of in the body of the e-mail. With e-mail I am very limited in how I can “flavor” the content through adding layers of formatting and graphics–a little “marketing” to open up the rapport.  Using a Word document would allow for more creativity and personal touch to color the content, per Mann and Stewart’s assertion in Postmodern Interviewing, (p. 88).

However, at the time I felt conflicted because I had it in my mind that there was something about getting an actual Word document that implied formality, a sense of intimidating permanence, despite artistic flair. To avoid any glitches, I opted not to take a risk (or so I perceived it to be so). I wanted to keep in the flow of an “online presence” as much as possible. I am not sure whether transferring my questions to a different format would have generated a less open response or not, but I was hesitant to add anything that might change our working dynamic.

As a whole, this interview gave me a great perspective on emotional contexts that are attached to books, but I do not yet have a perspective from someone who loves books solely for the book itself, (the book not serving a “dual role,” also as a gateway to nostalgia or a means to family bonding.) I would like to get additional perspective from folks who appreciate the qualities/components that are unique to the book as an object.  However, so far I have seen how the book is a gateway to our memories, stirring within us great bonds of affection.

To see additional details of my online interview with Michelle, I invite you to view my post Interview on Traditions in Literacy: Storytime for further reading.


Pre-Interview Preparation Post: Dr. Andrew P. Surace

This is my pre-interview, preparation post supplementary to my in-person interview with Dr. Andrew P. Surace.

As I stated in my post, Objects of Desire, originally I planned to meet with author Les Tomlinson Jr., but I had a change of plans and made arrangements to interview local author and book lover and area pastor, Dr. Andrew P. Surace instead. The specifics of my arrangement were that Dr. Surace had agreed for an interview in his church office on April 9th, which was a Saturday afternoon, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

I chose to interview Dr. Andrew P. Surace as he is someone who has a direct relationship with books, a local author who has written Stepping Stones Along the Path of Life and Power Points from the Word.

The theoretical approach I decided I would take was that of an active subject, as discussed in Postmodern Interviewing.

In Postmodern Interviewing Holstein and Gubrium describe an active subject approach as, “The image of the  active interview transforms the subject behind the respondent from a repository of opinions and reason or a wellspring of emotions into a productive source of knowledge. From the time one identifies a topic, to research selection, questioning and answering, and, finally, to the interpretation of responses, interviewing itself is a concerted project for producing meaning. The imagined subject behind the respondent emerges as part of the project, not beforehand. Within the interview itself, the subject is fleshed out–rationally, emotionally, in combination, or otherwise–in relation to the give and take of the interview process and the interview’s broader research purposes,” (p. 74).

I felt that this was the closest approach that describes my intent, as through the interview my understanding of my research topic of why people love books was taking form and shape, evolving from my previous understanding to a new one shaped by the conversation.

Some of the questions I planned to bring up were what it was like to grow up in the baby-boomer era, (as it was so different than today, with the myriad of electronic entertainment that kids have access to), favorite books and why, if he had any books that he would give to his kids someday, and his observations of what ways his being a reader and a book lover has effected his kids.

Pre-Interview Preparation Post: Michelle Wagner

This is my pre-interview, preparation post supplementary to my online interview with Tennessee mom, Michelle Wager, as first mentioned per my Interview Schedule post.

I originally stated in my Interview Schedule post that the online interview was set up for 3/30 or 3/31, however I gave our date a slight adjustment and moved it up to the first weekend in April which was more mutually workable for both Michelle and myself. This was the date that I sent the e-mail to her, as I wanted to give her ample time to answer me. (I requested that she get back to me by the 10th.) As a busy mom of two young children, I appreciated Michelle’s time and wanted to allow her several days to compose her e-mail before replying back to me.

The type of information I was looking to get was somewhat in-depth and personal. So, instead of opting to do the interview via an online chat forum, I chose to use e-mail as to gather more detail and backstory.

Regarding the topics my interview would center around, I wanted to go back to Michelle’s childhood, in order to discover what her first experiences with books were like and how those experiences colored her perspective, thus shaping her book habits in her teen and young adult years. I also planned to ask Michelle how and when she developed a fondness for books, and what social or emotional attachments books had which connected them to other things (adding a layer of sentiment or nostalgia.) Once I could see how the perspective on books was formed, next I wanted to look at how it was carried over into Michelle’s behavior as a parent, and the ways she introduced books as an object of fondness to her children and the way they seem to feel toward books, (interested, disinterested, etc.)

Reflecting back to the beginning of the semester, I initially connected with Michelle through downloading Facebook’s App, Circle of Moms.

Facebook’s App, Circle of Moms  states on the site that its purpose is, “dedicated to making the lives of moms easier and more enjoyable. We help moms connect, both to one another and to their families, to capture and share their children’s stories and to tap a rich and authentic source of advice and support: other moms. Circle of Moms gives you instant access to a world of moms and to the know-how, empathy, and humor that only they can provide. Call on the support of your closest mom friends through your Inner Circle, meet moms in your neighborhood through your local community, or connect with the unlimited resources of a world of moms through other Communities of special relevance to you.”

I had seen Circle of Moms before on Facebook but never really paid much attention to it as I am not a parent yet. However, trying to come up with a creative way to connect with a real mom online in the category that I was looking for, the App then became something of interest to me as I needed an online forum geared toward mothers. Thankfully, I was already on Facebook, so it was easy for me to join, and if I did indeed connect with someone, I already had a Facebook profile set up that they could peruse to get to know me.

Once I downloaded the App, I was then given the option to join a “sub-community” centered around various topics pertaining to motherhood, such as breastfeeding. I wanted the leeway to branch into my area of interest, so I selected to join the Circle of Moms sub-community of Toddler Moms.

Toddler Mom’s motto said, “Mothers of all ages all around the world who are active mothers of toddlers and infants.”

Once I joined the group, I posted a question and asked if anyone was a fan of books, read to their kids, and would be willing to share a little bit with me. I also shared that I was a graduate student and posted the link to this research blog for my Core 2: Research Methods for Writers graduate course. Eventually, Michelle responded to my post and I followed up by asking her if she wouldn’t mind if we continued the conversation via e-mail, as to guard our privacy and provide the structure for more detailed responses and the ability to start and pick up later.

As expert researchers, Chris Mann and Fiona Stewart discuss in Chapter 5, (Internet Interviewing) of Postmodern Interviewing by Jaber F. Gubrium and James A. Holstein, using e-mail to conduct creative research is considered legitimate and is termed computer-mediated communication (CMC) which falls under the category of semi-private, (p. 82).

Additionally, as stated in the text, this genre of CMC, “allows the interviewer…some level of control with regard to the nature and content of interaction,” (p. 82).  Mann and Stewart expound on CMC to provide research examples of CMC saying, “Other interviewers have investigated the experiences of people engaged in such online activities as…on-line versions of subculture…rural women’s use of interactive communication technology…” (p. 82).

The examples that the text provides are right in line with my interview with Michelle, as she is an individual who represents a subculture of mothers who are book-lovers and share book culture with their children. Michelle is also an example of a woman who engages in interactive communication technology as per her participation in the Circle of Moms Facebook community.