the interview process begins…

October 21, 2007

I had a great meeting last week with one of my advisors, Peter Thule Kristensen (Gregers is in Italy until November). We talked about my first draft of interview questions for those who have been involved with the SAVE program here in Copenhagen. I expressed my desire to speak to professionals as well as those who volunteered in the program as sources of “local knowledge.” I’d really like to get stories from participants – about what the participation process meant to them, how successful they perceived it to be, and what changes they feel it brought about in their neighborhood or in perceptions of their neighborhood. We decided that I should create two separate questionnaires, one for professionals and one for volunteer participants, since the roles of the two groups in the SAVE process were quite different. Also, although I had started with a long-ish list of rather specific questions (in part adapted from some earlier interview research I had done), Peter encouraged me to limit the questions to five or six per interviewee and to keep them more open-ended. I liked this suggestion, because I really am more interested in hearing stories…in other words, the kinds of responses that I am most likely to get from more open-ended questions.

The goals of the interviewing are, briefly:

  • to get a story – the interviewee’s personal experience with SAVE
  • to understand the individual’s attachment to and/or perception of the neighborhood
  • to find out about changes that have occurred in the built environment since SAVE -opinions/awareness
  • to get opinions about the relative success of SAVE (particularly the participatory aspects) or lasting influences
  • general reflections on experience and hopes/directions for the future
  • conception/understanding of the area surveyed: characteristic features? what is special?

The meeting with Peter also made me think about some of the assumptions that I’ve brought into this project – this is one of the reasons for running my questions by my advisers before contacting my interviewees – particularly, some thoughts that I had about neighborhood identity in Copenhagen. Because of the way the SAVE atlases were produced, one per neighborhood, I had assumed somewhat that these neighborhoods were recognizable as urban units apart from the SAVE survey (I know that living in Seattle, with its very strong sense of neighborhood identity has colored my perception somewhat). Peter suggested that Copenhagen residents may not identify strongly with a particular neighborhood, and that the boundaries of different “areas” are less recognizable in everyday life. The SAVE survey needed some way of splitting up the work and data, so the atlases were made for particular neighborhoods. (It seems that the neighborhoods may just be administrative districts and not necessarily socially, economically, or otherwise definable areas.) In any case, this information doesn’t really change my project, but it does help me with my interview question design. I’m beginning the interview process by contacting professionals involved in the creation of the Valby and Amager atlases (and hopefully also the Norrebro folks eventually). My advisers have been able to provide me with connections to start with for those two neighborhoods, and the neighborhoods fit with my desire to explore the more physically eclectic and “ordinary” areas of Copenhagen. More soon on the interviews!

On a separate note, I’ll be starting a Danish language course this week at the Center for Sprog og Kompetence in the Norrebro neighborhood. It’s about time to start getting a better handle on Danish pronunciation…!

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