As part of my ongoing research into sports culture and Native American culture, I’m conducting a series of interviews. Some will be in person, others online. The first in-person interview I’m conducting will be taking place later today.
The individual I’ll be interviewing is a man named George, who is a friend of a friend. He was recommended to me by a friend who is a manager at Chili’s. As manager of a grill & bar restaurant, my friend meets lots of people who come to Chili’s to eat, drink, and socialize. Like many other grill & bar establishments, Chili’s usually has TVs hanging throughout the bar area, making it a welcoming place for sports fans. As a result, the environment is a prime one for finding sports fans gathered together as part of a fan-based community. People there watch various sporting events on TV, discuss the games, and share their opinions and experiences. Thus my friend meets a lot of sports fans, and he was able to help me find some that would be interested in speaking with me.
The book PostModern Interviewing suggests that interviews should be conducted on equal grounds to keep an open flow of communication. Rather than seeing the interview as a way for the interviewer to probe the interviewee for information, we will instead be constructing the information together. While I’ll be guiding the interview to a degree, my goal is to let George discuss whatever topics he finds most interesting. In this way the interviewee will be “a productive source of knowledge” (p. 74). What this basically means is that the interview itself will be “producing knowledge.” We may end up discovering new ideas and concepts that neither of us had considered before. For example, earlier in my research I discovered that many people consider sports to be an integral part of their family dynamics. If this sort of subject comes up during the discussion today, then it’s possible both George and myself will learn something, through introspection and exploration, that we didn’t previously know about the relationship between family and sports.
The interview will take place at Chili’s, since it provides a natural environment for discussing sports culture. My hope is that if there are any games on during the interview, I may even be able to ask George’s opinions about them. Alternatively I could also learn about things like what the added appeal is to watching a sports game at a restaurant instead of in the privacy of one’s home. I suspect that there are social variables that might draw someone to become part of a group by joining in a public activity like this.
I don’t expect what I learn from George to be all-inclusive, since there is no absolute truth or perspective that will apply to all individuals. Postmodern Interviewing states that “we cannot assume that we get to the truth of the phenomenon talked about in interviews,” but that we “can make more or less valid . . . claims and interpretations about the interview text” (p. 238). What I take this to mean is that when I later analyze the interview experience, I should be able to come up with interpretations about the nature of sports culture and use the quotes from the interview to back up my claims.
I’ll be writing a followup post later, after the interview, in which I’ll share the specific subjects that we discussed and try to interpret what George’s answers mean about the nature of sports culture. I’ll also be welcoming comments in order to find out if others agree or disagree with the views expressed in the interview. That will add an additional dimension to the interview by bringing in more voices to the discussion.