1500 Stories is a cooperative art, storytelling and civic engagement project aimed at sharing stories of class inequality in the U.S. It will begin in the Silicon Valley. The project will develop a web-based collection of audio and video stories and visual arts about what it is like to live in different class positions. It will culminate in a 5-mile long public art installation and civic engagement experience. The title is inspired by a poster by Stephen J. Rose depicting the distribution of income and wealth in the U.S. and the fact that by 2013, the poster would need to be 1500 stories tall to capture the richest 1%. The 1500 Stories project will literalize this gap between the richest and the rest of us in the form of the 5-mile installation—roughly equivalent to 1500 stories of height. This project uses the metaphor of the 1500 stories to collect and share actual stories of the lived experience of class inequality in the U.S. If you would like to learn more about the project, contact Jennifer Myhre at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in participating in the 1500 Stories project as part of your civic engagement requirement, you will conduct, record and transcribe interviews as part of the 1500 Stories storygathering phase. Here are activities you can participate in as part of a 12-15 hour civic engagement requirement:
1. Attend a training in how to do in-depth interviews (1 hour)
2. Read through the “Tips and Resources for Interviewing, Recording Audio and Making Audio Documentaries” document (15 minutes)
3. Read through the 1500 Stories Question Bank and decide on questions to focus on (30 minutes)
4. Reach out to someone to explain the project, get informed consent and set up an interview (15-30 minutes)
5. Conduct an in-depth interview (30-120 minutes)
6. Submit release forms and audio recording of the interview to 1500 Stories (see below)
7. Transcribe the interviews and submit transcription to 1500 Stories (usually transcription takes 1 hour per 15 minutes of audio)
8. If you are interested, you might consider making an audio documentary intertwining two of your interviews. Audio documentaries must be under 3 minutes in length and will be submitted along with release forms to 1500 Stories. If enough students are interested in this, the director of 1500 Stories is happy to arrange for a training in how to use Audacity, free open-source audio editing software. (5-10 hours)
In order to fulfill your civic engagement requirement, you will likely have to conduct and transcribe 2-4 interviews (depending on the length of the interviews).
You must identify people to interview. Those people can either occupy a similar class position as you or a very different class position—it is up to you. Because the goal of the project is to share stories across the whole continuum of class positions, it does not matter. The only requirement is that they be willing to share their story with the project (and thus willing to sign the release form).
You will ask questions about the person’s lived experiences of class. Choose questions from the 1500 Stories question bank that are most interesting and compelling to you as a starting point, but your mission should always be to listen and follow-up with your own questions that probe in more depth about the stories people share with you in the moment.
It is very important that the storysharer have enough time and space to go deep. Choose a time in which you will not be interrupted and in which the participant will not feel rushed. Choose a location that is quiet and private. This is also a practical matter because the quality of your audio recording is dependent on the quietness of your surroundings.
The goal of the 1500 Stories project is to develop empathy and understanding across people who have very different economic experiences. Listening carefully and being carefully listened to can be transformative for people. This is your chance to connect more deeply with another human being and for that person to be heard. This is also an opportunity for people to talk about matters about which we often remain silent. Also, these interviews will be archived as part of the Silicon Valley Documentation Project.
Here are key logistical steps you must take:
Your participants must agree to be audio-recorded for publication on the 1500 Stories website. Read the release form carefully so that you will be able to explain it to your interviewees. Show them the release form before you schedule the interview and get their consent before proceeding, so that you will know if you need to ask someone else instead. Also make clear that the person can refuse to answer any question or stop the interview at any time. You can send hard copies of the release form to Jennifer Myhre, De Anza College, 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd. Cupertino CA 95014. Electronic copies are preferred and must use the following naming conventions: lastnameofintervieweefirstnameofinterviewee_releaseform. Electronic copies of the release form can either be emailed to email@example.com or submitted to the 1500 Stories Dropbox folder.
Please keep in mind that when someone says yes, they are offering you a huge gift—the gift of their time and their vulnerability in letting you see a piece of their inner life. Be sure to convey your deep appreciation for this gift through your words and your actions.
Before the interview do a test run of your recording app or audio equipment that records for at least 30 minutes and try e-mailing it to someone to make sure it works. It is helpful if you talk with your respondent in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Record the interview—be sure that all of your equipment is recording properly BEFORE you begin the interview. Put the recording device as close to the interviewee as possible. Check periodically during the interview to make sure it is still recording. Leave it recording until after you are out of the door on your way out–often it is after the interview is “officially” over that people get most comfortable sharing.
Try to build comfort and trust before the interview begins–make the person feel at ease. Thank them for their time and willingness to share. Remind the respondent that they can end the interview at any time or refuse to answer any question they do not feel comfortable with. Make clear that you would like to hear their stories. Remember that an interview is NOT the same as a conversation—your job is to ask questions and to listen without judgment, not to respond or comment on what the respondent shares. NEVER EVER INTERRUPT your interviewee. Wait at least 3-7 seconds after the respondent has finished talking before going on to the next question. You do not need to stick to the “script” of the questions you have chosen from the question bank–it is more powerful, instead, to probe more deeply on the stories people share with you once you have asked a couple of questions. However, you absolutely must get them to say and spell their first name and you must also ask all of the “Essential Demographic Information” questions from the 1500 Stories Question Bank.
Change the filename of the audiorecording to lastnameofintervieweefirstnameofinterviewee_interview_interviewdate. Then either e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org or else submit it to the 1500 Stories Dropbox. You are welcome to share the audio recording with your interviewee as well.
This involves typing up everything that is said in interview, with timecodes roughly every 30 seconds. The point of this is to allow editors to search easily for key ideas and then be able to find them in the audio file based on the timecodes. The easiest way to transcribe is to download the audiorecording onto a computer and then use this free website: http://otranscribe.com/. It will ask you to drag and drop the audio file and allow you to easily timestamp, as well as go faster or slower through the file. The most important thing to remember is to then COPY AND PASTE the full transcript into either a Google doc or Word so that you can submit it to 1500 Stories. Use the following file name: lastnameofintervieweefirstnameofinterviewee_transcript. Then either e-mail it to email@example.com or submit it to the 1500 Stories Dropbox.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information if you would like to do an audio documentary using two of your interviews.