2410 interviewing, structured, unstructured, and postmodern

Some have pointed out that there may be
times when the researcher does not see things
eye to eye with the group studied and advo
cacy becomes very problematic. Others have
confessed that the sharedness between inter
viewer and respondent is artificial, since it is
still the researcher who has the power of pro
ducing a text from the interview. Edwards and
Mauthern (2002) feel that rather than pretend
that differences between interviewer and
respondents have been overcome, they should
be pointed out, as they cannot be eliminated.

Active Interviewing

Holstein and Gubrium (1995) coined the term
active interviewing to refer to the fact that inter
views are actively negotiated accomplishments
between the interviewer and the respondent.
The two (or more) individuals actively collabo
rate in creating a text in a unique situation and a
specific setting. According to Holstein and
Gubrium, traditional interviews of all types
stress too much the data gathered in the inter
view, regardless of how they were collected. The
interviewer should also pay much closer atten
tion to the latter, the ways in which data were
collected by whom, where, how, in what cir
cumstances, and any other element that may
have influenced the data. This approach is a
very reflexive one, which rejects the notion that
we merely gather data in interviews and use
refined techniques to improve the quality
of those data. Here the interview is a coopera
tive, negotiated text, created in the interaction
and dependent upon it and the individuals

Reporting Interviews

Postmodern interviewers are also experiment
ing with new modes of reporting their findings.
Rather than mimicking the sparse language of
science as do traditional sociologists, postmo
dern reports at times take the form of perfor
mances, plays, introspective recounting, and
even poetry. The intent is to provide a more
immediate and colorful picture for the readers,
who can hopefully be more attracted to sociol
ogy and gain a better empathetic understanding
through the immediacy of the new reporting
Limits of Postmodern Interviewing

Postmodern interviewers have met with criti
cism from traditional interviewers. The ques
tion but is it sociology? has been repeatedly
asked and not satisfactorily answered. Also,
assuming that it is sociology, how does post
modern interviewing submit to the standard
criteria of sociology, such as verifiability and
replicability? Furthermore, how do sociologists
judge the merits of the poetry or performance?
Were these arbiters to judge them by literary
standards they would fall very short; no other
standards have thus far been suggested.


A new development in interviewing is through
electronic outlets, especially the Internet. Given
the tremendous expansion of home computers
this means of interviewing allows access to a
huge population. The technique costs little and
can have a very speedy response. Of course,
there is no face to face or even voice to voice
contact, so we are faced with a virtual inter
viewing with almost no checks and balances of
who the respondent really is and the veracity of
their statements. Currently, electronic inter
viewing tends to rely on questionnaires, but
some are already exploring the world of chat
rooms (Markham 1998) and delving into the
fabricated realities and online lifestyles of virtual
online selves.


Since the objects of inquiry in interviewing are
human beings, there must be ethical considera
tions in their regards. All interviewers would
agree to grant the respondents rights to
informed consent, anonymity, and protection
from harm. Much of structured and unstruc
tured interviewing research has no stake per se
in the world of the respondents, albeit at times
social policy may arise from the findings of
some studies. Postmodern interviewers aim for