Interviews are at the heart of the Live Art in Scotland project – so it was a real delight to spend this morning delivering a workshop on interview-based research with my former PhD student Katie Hart, whose own brilliant work on women’s cultural leadership centres on conversations with culture workers from across the Scottish theatre sector.
The workshop was offered as part of the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities annual Summer School. Our ambition was support graduate students in making some concrete choices of research design while surfacing the thinking that might inform how interviews are then ‘put to work’ in a thesis project. Why use interviews over any other method? What do interviews enable that wouldn’t be possible by any other means? What functions are interviews or interview-based data intended to serve? Will they challenge, verify or expand established knowledge, or offer something else entirely?
In doing so, we wanted to talk about the ethical dimensions of research involving real, live people – not simply the formal processes of seeking approval from institutional ethics committees, or the paperwork which records informed consent but how to navigate moments when an interview participant says – with disarming simplicity – ‘I trust you’.
We also wanted to explore the value of researcher reflexivity – that is, strategies for recognising and making use of the knowledge that our social identities and lived experiences shape how we might address, construct, interpret, and present research. This enables another kind of ethical reflection, helping us to think about whether we are doing with research with, for, or ‘on’ a given community – and the obligations or critiques that those positions might invite.
Here are our slides, free to download.