Coding Interviews


    Sustaining Medart: Interviews Inside and Outside the VMW

    While interviewing attendees of the International Congress on Medieval Studies for the Sustaining MedArt project, and after beginning the transcription of these interviews in the Visual Media Workshop, it is interesting to reflect on how both processes are different. 

    During the interview process, if you’re anything like me, you gauge the people around you before walking up and asking to interview them. The good thing about asking random people at a conference if you can interview them is that you will usually only receive one of two answers; yes, or no—so it’s a low-risk situation. Luckily for me, most of the people I approached did agree to an interview, most after a preliminary conversation about where each of us was from and what kind of work we were doing. Before each interview began, it was important to ask if the person was alright with being recorded, and most individuals agreed. During the interview it was important to simultaneously keep on track with the order of question you were asking, stay engaged with the person answering the question, and also be aware of the fact that the iPad was recording the entire encounter. During such a multi-tasked process it is sometimes difficult to remember everything a person said in order to pick out certain themes, unless that theme is recurring in almost every single interview. In the case of the interviews that I carried out, one major recurring theme that was easy to remember because of its frequency was that people said they often go to Google first when searching for images of medieval art and architecture.  

    Inside the lab, we listen to each interview as best as we possibly can in order to transcribe them. Although most are fairly easy to hear, some have proved extremely difficult to hear and so take longer to transcribe. The transcription process is much different from the interview process. You are hearing the interview out of context, you cannot see the person/s speaking, and non-verbal communication is lost. You are also not engaged with the conversation in the same way as if you were present during the moments of the interview. These, I think, are important to consider in any project that involves doing on-site interviews.

    What is most helpful about transcribing these interviews is that we now have data that we can work with, data that we can have handy in a spreadsheet, and data that we can code and extract themes from using grounded theory. Some interesting themes that have already been extracted are trust in the authority and reliability of the MedArt website, that the site is relatively simple and easy to use, especially for students, although many would like the site to have a search bar or other option to ease navigation. Some other themes include expressing guilt or concern over using Google due to frequent lack of attribution and good quality images, and a belief that the site should be promoted via academic entities in order to secure preservation funds. 

    For now, transcribing the interviews and extracting themes continues! 

    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW