Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Observations from being interviewed

As I mentioned a few weeks back, one of the peripheral Duncharlatans (Kaitlin) interviewed me for her bachelor's thesis. She handed it in yesterday, and gave me a copy at Low Company last night.

The thesis itself makes for fun reading. The topic is re-enactment of Arthurian legend in 13th century tournaments, from an folklorist's viewpoint. As such, while the thesis has several chapters discussing the history and literature, the meat (about 20 pages of 50) is the ethnography chapter, in which she examines modern re-enactment groups, using them to inform her analysis of the period activities. The bulk of this chapter is exerpts from her interviews, split more or less evenly between me and her archaeology professor (Dr. Daniel Adler -- no idea whether there's any relation to our friend dadler).

The interview of me is pretty well handled -- she chooses points well, and presents a decently accurate and balanced view of the SCA. (Which was the principal topic I was talking about -- Dr. Adler was focused on re-enactment communities like Plymouth Plantation.) Indeed, the classic SCA "re-enactment vs. re-creation" distinction turns into one of the major points of the thesis, which delved into what happens when re-enactment turns back into living tradition. But her transcription of the interview is *very* precise, the first time I've ever seen my own speech patterns written down so exactly. It makes for painful reading. Two particular observations stand out:

"Man -- am I really that incoherent?" I generally think of my spoken and written styles as being quite similar, and when I'm speaking slowly and thoughtfully I do think that's the case. But I got pretty -- well, "animated" is the word she used, and it's apt -- during this interview: I had a lot to say, and not a lot of time for it. The result is that it's hard for *me* to follow what I'm saying among all the "Um"s, "Ah"s and sentence fragments; I have to admire her ability to pick out the meat from that. Lesson: when I'm speaking for content, especially for the record, I need to restrain myself better, and focus on clarity.

"Ouch -- did I really say that?" Granted, I was intentionally being pretty honest with her here. For her purposes, a sanitized view of the SCA would have been a lot less useful than the warts-and-all analysis I actually presented her with. But I look at several of the points I made, and reflexively wince: they're not things I would normally admit outside the Society, and I really wasn't thinking about that at the time. Indeed, I succumbed a few times to exactly the kind of defensiveness about the Society that I specifically dislike hearing. Lesson: make sure the appropriate brain filters are firmly in place, and that I'm presenting the Society as I intend to, *especially* when I'm excited.

Both lessons are especially appropriate right now, given the upcoming Carolingian demo, when there's a non-trivial chance of winding up talking to the press. I think it was siderea who suggested, some time back, the utility of roleplaying exercises to get used to the interaction process for demos. The moral I get out of all this is you don't just want to *conduct* mock interviews, you ideally want to *record* them, and play them back some time later with analysis -- the results can really surprise you...
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