‘What do you want me to say?’

I am aware that it has been a few days.

I’ve been busy with 1. catching up on weeks of dirty washing; 2. reading Eggers’s long sentences; 3. interviewing students for an article.

Number 3. took place this morning, at the NGV Top Arts 2013 Media Preview. A few weeks ago, RMIT Catalyst sent out an email asking for someone to cover the upcoming arts exhibition. I, in a momentary fit of I-can-do-everything!, volunteered myself for the job. So here I was, at NGV Studio, interviewing 18-year-olds and repeatedly clarifying to other media personnel that no, I was in fact not one of the highschool graduates.

Interviews will be a major part of my project this year, and while I am still waiting for the approval of my ethics form before I can begin, I’ve started preparing for the process. Firstly, I downloaded a Skype recorder because if I simply take notes it may detract from the continuity of the conversation — and I might also miss important details. Secondly, I began to predict the course of questions and reflect on what my own expectations are of the initial interviews. How do these expectations influence how the interview will actually unfold? And the overall feel of the interview? What are my subject’s expectations, and how will this influence her response to my questions?

This idea of expectations became particularly relevant today during my interviews with the Top Arts artists. As rather young people who most likely haven’t been interviewed by the media before, many of the students I spoke to were intimidated by my well-meaning questions. To inquiries as innocent as ‘What were the inspirations for your project?’ came the response, ‘Um, what do you want me to say?’ Maybe they were expected the cliched pushy journalist, or else maybe the students haven’t yet learnt that they can lead a conversation with an older stranger — that I was interested in hearing their opinion, rather after a preconceived response.

I think during the interview process it will be important for me and also for my subject to consider the limitations of the interview format, however informal. In the same way, the limitations of my knowledge about someone else’s memory. I am interested in whether or not this limitation should be acknowledged when I am writing her story — does it reveal truth, or does it take the story away from her and make it mine? I guess this is the question of ‘otherness’ — what am I doing by acknowledging the edges that my inquiry is able to reach?

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2 thoughts on “‘What do you want me to say?’

    • Thanks, Sam — will endeavour to keep up the posts at least until October (and hopefully longer)! Hope your ‘gap year’ is going swell 🙂

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