So it’s time to unzip the cover, search out the external microphone and make friends with my trusty digital recorder again. It’s been a while since we last journeyed together and, like old friends meeting after a long spell of separation, it’s going to take us a while to get back into the swing of hanging out together again. There is a degree of nervousness about reigniting this relationship as I remember some slight tensions during our previous excursions together.
As researchers we invest a great deal of trust in our recording equipment. It is a piece of equipment with the ability to send us into melt down if its found to have failed. It’s one of the things which, when we start on our research journey, has a tendency to distract us from being totally present during our first few interviews. No matter how hard we try to listen to the conversation there is a constant narrative going on in the background, ‘did I really switch it on?’, ‘can I sneak a look to see if it’s recording without it seeming obvious’, ‘have I put it in the right place to pick up what is being said?’.
Before we even start the interview there is the tricky question of how to introduce it into the conversation conveying a relaxed air of being totally at one with our trusty friend. How to put someone at ease with being recorded discussing personal, sensitive topics which may not have been voiced before. Using our most confident voice to assure that, ‘once we get talking you will forget it’s here – I promise’.
When I purchased my digital recorder I was advised to buy an external microphone to improve the quality of the recording, especially in a group situation. Probably great advice but, wouldn’t you know it, this only served to add to the anxiety as the microphone had it’s own on/off switch and no light to indicate whether it was on or off. So now there were two switches to worry about and one of them was on the bottom of the microphone and invisible. At least with the recorder I could see the little bars going up and down (technical speak!) to assure myself that it was recording. With the microphone the only way was to pick it up, turn it over and look and there was no way that could be done discretely.
Memories of the dash to the car at the end of the interview and the slight moment of hesitation before hitting play to see if the interview was captured. The rush of relief to know that all was well and on two occasions the absolute horror of realising that something had gone wrong. And then the final embarrassment of having to listen back to the interview. ‘Do I really sound like that? ‘Did I really say that?’ ‘I can’t believe I didn’t follow up on that point’, We did, over time, relax into a more settled relationship as we got to know each other and I am hoping the same thing will happen again over the next few weeks.
It’s been a bit of a technological few days actually and, as those of you who follow this blog regularly may have noticed, a change in venue. Today I have transferred to a new website and, like my trusty recorder, I’m having a bit of a love/hate relationship with the new site at the moment. So if things go a bit a drift over the next week or so, please hang in there while we get to know each other! But some new places for you to explore on the site which will grow and develop over the coming weeks.