NCRM videos

Silje Bakken - Meeting the interviewees at their digital 'home-turf'


Silje Bakken from The University of Copenhagen presents 'Meeting the interviewees at their digital “home-turf”: encrypted interviewing in networks of online drug sellers' at Methods Fair 2019. Abstract: The first rule of any ethnography would be to be where the action is. Such a perspective becomes problematic when your field of study is both hidden and digital in its nature. This paper develops how to make use of the digital networks formed by the participants and the technology they use to recruit and interview for a qualitative study of online drug dealing. One hundred participants were recruited and interviewed through Wickr, an encrypted messaging application. Using Wickr to recruit and interview drug dealers and buyers proved to be of great value. Especially the fact that the participants already new the application and trusted it, and that Wickr-IDs were shared within the networks. It also provided both participant anonymity and researcher protection, and left the interviewees with a sense of control. However, we did meet obstacles that challenged the interview flow and the study’s reliability. The high flexibility concerning time and space was both a positive and negative factor, such as with time management, researcher flexibility, and interview context. Some other challenges were the use of emoji, multiple participation, and sincerity of their answers.