Interviewing in the Digital Age

After reading through Tompkins’s “Aim for the Heart” chapter 6, I thought about how technology influences the interview processes. He made a lot of good points, touching on a few that are probably familiar to most people already. The most interesting things that came to mind during this reading, however, were the changes in technologies over the past few years.

What is the best way to interview someone if that information is going to be filtered into written stories for publishing or alternative story forms? Most manipulation of text is done with a computer, especially in publishing. Even editing is being done using digital word manipulation software rather than by hand. In order to ease the flow of digital information then, it makes sense to record the interview in a digital form. Audio should be recorded to an SD card using a digital voice recorder or as a file via a tablet or smart phone application if it will be reused in an audio slideshow, video or other live medium. A tape recording is sufficient if the interview is only to be transcribed, not used as sound.

Video may be a different matter entirely. Most of us do not have the funds or the knowledge to use expensive video cameras, microphones and editing software to make widespread videos meant for TV, movie theatres or even retail DVDs. All the videos I am capable of creating would come from a digital camera, webcam or phone, edited with free software already installed on my computer. They can be scripted onto discs, transferred using hard drives, USB storage or SD cards, or posted online to sites like YouTube for public view.

What is the best plan to allow for all possible outcomes, permitting varied use of this interview for me personally or for everyone else? I have heard it said “the medium is the message”. I think this is true: depending on what you might want to portray in the story, the medium through which it is framed can alter its meaning. That being said, if by the time that the interview is taken, the meaning of the story is not clear, the ability to use any type of media may be valuable. In that case, taking video and audio is the best course of action. It may be possible with computer software to take a video (which consists of moving images and audio simultaneously) to obtain the audio alone and leave the video intact, necessitating only the recording of video for all types of media.

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