- Announcing: War Stories
- Steve’s War Story: It’s All Going To Burn
- Tamara’s War Story: What the Hell? Don’t you knock?
- Tell Us Your War Story
- Vanessa’s War Story: DDoSed in Vegas
- Dan’s War Story: Focus, no matter what!
- Priya’s War Story: Taking empathy to a whole new level
- Tom’s War Story: Go with the flow
- Mary Ann’s War Story: Be Prepared
- Leo’s War Story: No, We Really Meant the User
- Nicolas’ War Story: Do you want me to act?
- Diane’s War Story: Interrupted Interview
- Kelly’s War Story: Pictures are language independent
- Susan’s War Story: The trust dance
- Gavin’s War Story: It’s 4:00 a.m., Do You Know Where Your Ethnographer Is?
- Dan’s War Story: Shanghai Surprise
- Fumiko’s War Story: Goodbye cruel world
- Greg’s War Story: Taking notes, getting detained (sort of)
- Jon’s War Story: Beware of Trap Doors
- George’s War Story: Skyfall (or A View to A Kill)
- Lisa’s War Story: When Rapport Goes Too Far
- Sean’s War Story: Pockets full of cash
- Francoise’s War Story: Black glances cast our way
- Brandon’s War Story – CATastrophe
- Greg’s War Story: Biting off more than I can chew
- Michael’s War Story: The glass is more than half full
- Raffaella’s War Story: Learning to deal with expectations
- Greg’s War Story: Culture shock
- Elaine’s War Story: I thought my client was going to die
- Dennis’s War Story: Negotiating between sympathy and empathy
- Debbie’s War Story: Sometimes Ignorance is Bliss
- Carla’s War Story: A dirty diaper sitting in the mud
- Apala’s War Story: Whose side is the researcher on?
- Jaimes and Aico’s War Story: Sumimasen!
- Elysa’s War Story: Keep The Swiffer On Your Right
- Sharon’s War Story: Broken Windows Theory
- David’s War Story: Footloose
- David’s War Story: Suit yourselves
- Prasad’s War Story: Skin in the game
- Daria’s War Story: Human Thresholds
- Jen’s War Story: Trust your gut, it can save your life!
- Ryan’s War Story: Enthusiasticus Interruptus
- Valerie’s War Story: Rank order
- Rachel’s War Story: Subject Matter May Be Inappropriate
- Cordy’s War Story: A Crisis of Credibility
- Marta’s War Story: On confronting judgement
- Whitney’s War Story: Stories of War
- Kavita’s War Story: Managing money, oh joy!
- Ilona’s War Story: First Stop the Bleeding!
- Elaine’s War Story: They call me Mister
- Tom’s War Story: House Rules
- Alicia’s War Story: Don’t hate on a tinkler
My colleague and I showed up to learn about our research participant’s smart house. In the initial part of the interview, just trying to learn a bit about the family before we learned about the house, the participant (I’ll call him Jon) told me they home-schooled their kids. I was young and naïve enough that I didn’t have a clue what other factors that typically signifies. When I asked about why they made that decision, Jon really snarled at me, I think because he was far more interested in showing me his gear than talking about his family, but I just explained that we wanted to learn about him as well. He told me that they didn’t support the school system and their attitude towards alternative lifestyles. That’s when I realized I was in an environment where the values were just really different than my own. Okay, no problem, that’s par for the course for the job. We spent a good long time after that checking out the details of a really incredible smart home system that he had built, cobbled, and coded together. Really incredible. Yet there was a constant theme of monitoring and control, of using the technology to check up on the kids from other rooms. Still, all good information. As we were getting to the reflective part of the interview, wrapping up or nearly so, Jon abruptly changed gears mid-explanation.
Jon: “Of course, none of this really matters because it’s all going to burn.”
Me + Colleague: [Puzzled silence]
Jon: “And now I have a question for you fellas: Have you accepted Christ as your savior?”
In my life in general, this is the sort of question I’m utterly unprepared for. In this interview, I knew it was coming, some part of my body was tense from the discussion of the rationale for home schooling, knowing that I was in a slightly vulnerable situation that was going to emerge at some point. So while I was dreading it all along, perhaps it came as some kind of relief. Watching the video later, I saw the most deadpan version of myself I’d ever seen: “…………Well…..perhaps that’s a question for another time.”
I was stuck, I couldn’t dishonor all the rapport-building and honest curiosity I’d been exhibiting for the past two hours, but now we were trapped. My colleague fell back in helpless reflecting-back, I kept waiting for my opening for the “Well….time to go…” but Jon really wanted to talk to us about what we should be doing and thinking, with respect to Christ. It seems this went on for a very long time, but we finally made it to the doorway. Jon asked us to wait, and went off to get something. We should have made a break for it, but we were too struck by the requirements of politeness in our researcher role. He returned with some bible-related literature and exhorted us – in terms that would make the Glengarry Glen Ross salesmen proud – to follow up. Another eternity (if you will) and we were finally able to step away.
We made it to the car, drove a block and erupted in hysterical, gasping laughter. It was the laughter of relief, the kind of manic giggling you’d get from 10-year-olds who just got away from the angry shopkeeper. We had some choice words about Jon, once we were safe.
The experience was terribly uncomfortable; I could not find a way to follow my own values as a researcher and still protect myself from a conversation that was personally risky (as a Jew, I’ve had my share of proselytizing/Hell/Christ “discussions” and really don’t ever want to have one again). As a researcher, I am interested in and have respect for Jon’s views on his family, his home, education, and the afterlife. But as a person, I just don’t want to have to reveal my own beliefs or defend them, especially in this sort of setting.
This was more than 10 years ago, I wonder how I would it handle it now.