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Walking conversation is also known as the go-along and it is an interview method, where the surroundings and the informant’s actions are actively involved in the interview; i.e. the informant is being interviewed about his or her actions and associations, while the informant is actually performing those actions.

Being in the informant’s actual own surroundings may inspire and stimulate both the interviewer and the informant possibly leading to deeper insights compared to an interview in a place disconnected from the informant’s context.

Walking conversation is particularly useful if you want to understand people’s relationship to the environment or an object, for example at a workplace, at home or in a public space. The method is ideal if you work exploratory at the beginning of a project, but it can also be applied if you want to test hypotheses in the middle of or at the end of a project.

Instructions

Before the walking conversation
The students make arrangements with the informant. The students can also benefit from involving the informant in choosing the location of their walking conversation. Walking conversation can also be made with several informants, e.g. as a city walk with a group of informants.
The students set up a semi-structured interview guide based on the place, where they are to make their walking conversation. Find inspiration for making an interview guide here: The qualitative interview

 

During the walking conversation
The students divide into groups of maximum two students for a walking conversation, or one student can do it alone. It can be an advantage to be two people so that the students can take turns interviewing and taking pictures.

  • During the walking conversation one student interviews, while the other student takes pictures of the situations that the informant talks about.
  • Be aware of how the informant interacts with the surroundings and the thoughts that are being associated with it – just ask.
  • Visual documentation is crucial for the subsequent analysis and communication so take many pictures.
  • Record the conversation for subsequent analysis and transcription.

 

After the walking conversation
After the interview the students write down their notes of everything they have experienced and add the reflections that have had about the fieldwork. The students can transcribe the entire interview or parts of it and gather all documentation.
Use the method Cluster analysis for further analysis.

Worth Considering

It is important that students ask questions and observe with an open mind and that they do not over-analyze during the fieldwork as it may hinder important insights.

Preparation

The students need to select a place to perform the walking conversation and make arrangements with the informants.

During the interview the students need a notebook, pen, dictaphone or perhaps a smartphone and/or video-camera.

Sources

Czarniawska, Barbara 2007, Shadowing and other techniques for doing fieldwork in modern societies, Liber AB

Kusenbach, Margarethe 2003, Street Phenomenology: The Go-Along, Ethnography, Sage Publications

Lee, Jo & Ingold, Tim 2006, Fieldwork on Foot: Perceiving, Routing, Socializing, Coleman, Simon & Collins, Peter: Locating the Field. Space, Place and Context in Anthropology. Oxford & New York: Berg

Sandberg, Marie 2009, Grænsens nærvær og fravær. Europæiseringsprocesser i en tvillingeby på den polsk-tyske grænse, Ph.d. afhandling, Københavns Universitet

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