mirror, mirror...sitting in front of me

i've been thinking a lot about the role of interviews: their purpose, the social dynamics, the physical interactions and linguistic jockeying... i recently interviewed two young men who i had only for a very short time prior to engaging in this rather intimate exchange. in this setup, i, a stranger, asked them to share with me aspects of their lives, how they felt about learning in their lives, and asked them to reflect - out loud - about these big ideas while being recorded onto minidisc. what was most surprising to me, however, was the enthusiasm with which each participated in this event. after each interview, as we engaged in an impromptu debrief of our conversation, both young men described the time that had just transpired as cathartic and enjoyable.

shortly following these interviews i was talking with a woman about a different project and we were settling on a time for me to interview her. i have known this woman for a little while now and so the background for the interview is different, yet she said something that made me wonder about my conversations with the two young men: she remarked that she was happy to do an interview and said that she, like anyone else, would welcome the chance to talk more and reflect on everyday goings on. in saying so she hinted that an interview would almost be a luxury.

this got me thinking about the role of interviews in how we gather data with young people. if interviews are so out of sync with their usual discourse patterns, what role do they really play in research with youth? linguists and linguistic anthropologists have wrestled with this question in other ways, noting that the interview itself is a peculiar speech event. thus, the information gathered must be engaged with the proverbial grain of salt. but this line of thinking strengthens the case of those of us who are seeking new ways to engage and include young people's perspectives, positionalities, and imaginations in our work. i would argue that the peculiarity of "the interview" demands that we rework and re-imagine methods that create opportunities for youth-full reflections...

with that said, there seems to be something valuable and significant about "the interview" in talking with and learning from young people, particularly in honoring the historical importance and tradition of oral history. ... and in collectively creating still more spaces for more voices to be heard oustide the construct of interviews.

when i asked one of the young men to expand on his remark that he had really enjoyed our conversation, he paused... and then noted that this was the first time he had had a chance to talk about "some of that stuff" and that it felt good to do so. it is my/our responsibility to make sure that his "stuff" is handled with respect.

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