Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gouldian Finches: Interviews complement and focus participant observation of sociocultural processes.

Harbin ethnography:

... Like actual Harbin, virtual Harbin has, and will, attract a self-selected group of virtual Harbinites, from which further interviews will emerge.

Interviews complement and focus participant observation of sociocultural processes. Recorded interviews provide a focused record very different from notes based on participant observation. In some of my interviews, I found the opportunity to 'riff,' (play short musical phrase) and innovate, loosely in the context of New Age thinking, to lead to a kind of improvisational communication that went in unexpected and, even, transcendent, communicative directions. Interviews allowed me to ask specific questions about aspects of Harbin, its culture and history, that I was interested in, from which I sometimes learned what I wanted, and didn't know, and from which sometimes I didn't. Verbal insights often led to further verbal insights, due to interviewing. Ongoing interviews at Harbin will allow me to clarify some of these questions that haven't become obvious due to participant observation. For the most part, I didn't have trouble getting interviews, although some aspects of Harbin's life seem veiled to me in an ongoing way, which interviewing didn't clarify. I sometimes muse that hoteliers – which Ishvara is, in a sense – share an ethos of confidentiality. And hippies do and have done a lot of interesting things at Harbin, which interviews have not yet informed me of. I'm interested in some of the most colorful events in Harbin's history, some of which I may find out about only through the serendipity of participant observation, as interviews may be a time where the people I'm talking to chose not to share what they know, in the name of circumspection. Interviews also allowed me insight into character of, and differences between, individuals, mediated by language, in ways that participant observation might only superficially provide insight into.


( - January 5, 2011)

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