Pre-Interview Planning: Online Interview 2

I will be interviewing Gretchen Grossman-Mobley, the author of the four-and-a-half-star rated book Ring Around the Rosary, through e-mail Saturday, March 28.

The Background

I had been reading Jesus>Religion by Jefferson Bethke after finding his YouTube video by chance. To remain engaged in my reading, I was live-tweeting the text as I came across passages I believed were interesting or relevant to my research. I tweeted a photo of the following paragraph:

I hear a lot of people say that the fear of death and the fear of public speaking are two of the main fears in my generation, but I disagree. I think it’s the fear of silence. We refuse to turn off our computers, turn off our phone, log off Facebook, and just sit in silence, because in those moments we might actually face up to who we really are. We fear silence like it’s an invisible monster, gnawing at us, ripping us open, and showing us our dissatisfaction. Silence is terrifying (Bethke).

I had chosen this passage because I felt that it conveyed an issue I talk about at length in my daily life, be it at work with students or at home with friends.

The tweet was favG-headshotorited and replied to twice; one reply came from @ggretchenmobley, one of my new Twitter followers.

I didn’t recognize the name, so I clicked to her profile in attempt to try and learn a little bit about her. I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued when I saw the following in her bio: “Teacher ~ Mom ~ A sweetheart calls me Oma. Former Nun ~ Traveler to NYC & SF ~ RING AROUND THE ROSARY that reads like a .” When I began my research, I assumed I would have a very easy time finding former churchgoers who no longer practice their religion and/or do not believe in God. However, everyone I had gotten in contact with up to the time Gretchen and I connected had been religious and in the process of strengthening a relationship with God. A former nun would certainly help give scope and perspective to my project.

I clicked through her website immediately, looking for more information about her story and book. This quick digital journey led me to learring-around-rosary-covern that she had entered a convent in 1961 but left five years later. After leaving, she was married, had children, attended college, and became a teacher.

I contacted her to see if I could interview her both through her website and via Twitter, and she replied back almost immediately.

Her book, Ring around the Rosary, is a memoir that begins with her as a child, contemplating what it would mean to become a nun. Then, as a 17 year old, she makes the decision to join the convent.

The Method

Because Gretchen and I have been communicating back and forth already through e-mail, we have elected to conduct our online interview through e-mail, as well. While I am again a bit saddened by the fact that the e-mail form will produce, as Brinkmann and Kvale write in InterViews, “a reflective distance without cues from bodies and spoken language,” Gretchen is a writer, so I have no fear that her responses will contain both “rich and detailed responses” that are the lifeblood of qualitative interviewing (174-5).

The Questions

I plan on starting with ten questions, as pictured in the screenshot below. I am also in the process of reading her memoir, and it is likely that the text itself will answer many questions a raise others.  I am hoping that I will have the opportunity to send additional, follow-up questions via e-mail at that time.

Images courtesy of Gretchen Grossman-Mobley.

 Screenshot (46)
Advertisements

Student Center Observations: Two Scenes (Post 2)

As I stated previously, I will periodically post about my research methodology and practice to make my research transparent for all interested in my developing project. In class on Tuesday, March 3, we ventured to the student center to practice taking ethnographic field notes.

My class’s second task for making use of our field notes was to take our jottings/translations and develop two scenes. I wasn’t sure what the difference between translated notes and scenes were, but thankfully, Dr. Wolff reminded me of the following:

I selected two excerpts from my field notes that I did not write about in my original translations post because I focused more on surroundings. These two “characters” stood out to me, though, so I decided to use the observations about them to craft details, “lushly” described scenes.

Scene 1

2015-03-06 10.26.12

He entered the ground floor of the student center through the middle doors, swinging them with such vigor that they swung back, stopped for a moment, and then began to close quickly once he had crossed the threshold. He was tall–taller than an average man–perhaps about six foot four. He had his shoulders rolled back, and, consequently, the upper part of his chest puffed out about. For this reason, he seemed to be enveloped in importance and dignity. His stature was perfectly matched with his attire. He wore pressed black pants with a nice crease down the center, a starched black button down shirt tucked tightly into those pants, and a belt to hold the pieces together. The buttons of the pulled a little over his round belly but not so much so that one might say his shirt was too small. He wore a long black pea coat over these layers which extended below his knees to just above mid-thigh. His bald head shined enough to reflect the glow of one of the fluorescent lights overhead.

I thought for sure he must be someone of significance, a boss perhaps. I thought this particularly because he walked slowly with long strides over to the glass case of the quick service stand across from the alcove of tables and chairs. He leaned in, bending from the hips not the shoulders, to peer into the bulbous glass case.

“Do you got sushi?” he asked. His improper grammar suggested maybe he wasn’t a boss but a student who had just come from some kind of important business.

The service worker behind the glass,only visible from the top half of her torso up but also in all black attire, replied without blinking. “No.” She did not make alternative suggestions or share when there might be sushi for purchase, if it ever was a delicacy available in such a casual location.

The man sighed deeply enough that his chest puffed out further and his shoulders rose before he turned on his left heel and strode back toward the door. His arms swung a little more limply than they did during his grand entrance. Perhaps his confidence had plummeted in the absence of his desired sushi.

Scene 2

Chris snuck through the right door behind a pair of riding-boot-wearing, black-coat-clad, messy-bun-having women in their late teens or early twenties. He was shorter than both of them, no taller than five foot five when standing straight. The flat brim of his red baseball cap was pulled low, and, because he tilted his head down to look at the glow of the small, bright screen in his left hand, his eyes were impossible to see.

He approached the alcove of tables and vending machines at which I was seated, but he continued to look back over his shoulder to the doors. He developed a pattern: take three steps, stop, and turn. Go back to walking. He repeated this pattern until he reached the muddied gold wall and rested his back against the two white spots revealed by peeling paint. He sunk his head again, turning his gaze back to the phone screen. In his right hand, he squeezed and released, squeezed and released a worn copy of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. No bookmark stuck out from the pages. Had he been the one to wear in the small paperback? Did he inherit from someone else? For me to know, he’d have to look up from his phone, and it didn’t seem as though that would be happening any time soon.

After about a minute of text message or maybe playing a cell phone game, as there was rapid thumb movement, he looked up and stepped away from the wall enough to reach the chair at the table to my right. He dropped the book on the round top and reached to pull out a chair, but he did not follow through.He picked up the book again and paced back and forth between the wall and the chair, shooting glances to the door.

This continued for a minute or so.

Then, this time, he followed through. He pulled out the chair and took a seat. He changed up his routine even more when he put the phone down and picked up Of Mice and Men. He turned to the first page and began reading. If he had been the one who broke in the spine of the book, it must have been a favorite for him to be reading it again. He eyes didn’t glance up from the page for a few minutes.

“Chris!”

He looked up, to his left, and then to his right. His head tilted slightly when his eyes focused on tall young man wearing blue sweats and a backpack.

“It’s Chris, right?” the backpacked boy asked slowly with the sounds of confusion raising his pitch.

Chris nodded, adjusting his hat just enough to show small furrow lines in his brow.

“You just looked at me like I was…” but Chris interrupts him, the first words he’s uttered using his mouth not his thumbs since he entered the building.

“Nah, man, I was just looking up…”

The greeter nods and waves goodbye with a hand gripping a white bag of food from Prof’s Place.

Chris looks from side to side again, about three times. He checks his phone, puts it down, picks it up, and checks it again. Finally, he returns to page 3 of Of Mice and Men.

The “Hey, what’s that on your forehead” Day Contradiction

In class this week, we discussed using Twitter as a research tool. I learned of the site Followerwonk, a site that helps you search user profiles and biographies for key words.  I did a quick search for some of the following key words: pastor, priest, Catholicism, and Christianity. The search returned so many results, and I quickly began following users in hopes that I might make some valuable digital connections.

It was then that I stumbled upon the hashtag #ashtag. It took me a minute before I got it, but then I remembered. Ash Wednesday is today. The hashtag includes priests encourage Catholics to attend church services and receive ashes. I get this. Twitter is a great way to reach out to the younger, technology-addicted generation of Catholics who may not be interested in heading to church on a Wednesday. A minute more of scrolling through, and I, much to my surprise, let out a gasp.

Could it be?

OnWednesdays
Photo credit: Twitter

Was I actually seeing…

FullSizeRender (2)
Photo credit: Twitter @markalves

…ridiculously inappropriate Ash Wednesday-related memes?

Going into this research, I had a vision of the Catholic church. It was traditional. It was stuffy. It was boring.I could sit in mass and easily claim that half the attendees were over 40 and the other half were there being held against their will for a CCD attendance requirement. In between claims, I could fall asleep.

But now priests are tweeting. They’re making puns with “ash” and “ass.” They’re responding with sincerity to Twitter profiles that make jokes about the Catholic faith, even if those jokes are in good fun.

Twitter
Photo credit: Twitter

I feel like I have entered a parallel universe where everything I had learned has suddenly been tossed out the window.

It’s interesting. It’s exciting. It’s refreshing. It makes sense. Social media is a great way to keep a notoriously lethargic, disengaged age group engaged and active.

In the past 12 hours, I became very pro-Catholic Twitter.

Then I went to an Ash Wednesday service at my church. It was packed, which bolstered my enthusiasm. I had to park two blocks away from the church on a side street and cross a main road, giving me more time to muse about what it all meant. I continued thinking that maybe I was wrong all along about people turning away from Catholicism.

The Gospel reading, though, left me confused. I followed along in the Liturgy book with Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 to learn that Jesus told his disciples, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them…But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.” The priest’s homily reminded me and my fellow parishioners that these ashes are a symbol to remind us to be less selfless in the coming 40 days in hopes of getting closer with God.

If I am not supposed to take part this in action for others to see, if I am supposed to anoint may head and wash my face, if I am supposed to be less selfless, why are the Twitter priests telling me to post a selfie with my ashes? Why am I being asked to so publicly commemorate my worship actions? It seems to be a contradiction, and it doesn’t make much sense.

Christianity Today posted an interesting article calling into question the piety of the #ashtag. It suggests that a more appropriate way to spread awareness would be personal conversations, a lost art.

It seems as though the Catholic community is trying to be open to the majority but in doing so, it is challenging its own doctrine. I feel like this may be why the Catholic church has remained so deeply rooted in traditional practices–when it tries to reach out and be socially relevant, the results are inherently problematic.

Going forward, I would love to discuss this issue with a priest while conducting my research. I also feel as though it would be an excellent segue into a conversation about making religion more appealing to a young generation and why such a task may or may not be difficult.

But first, let me take an #ashtag.

ashtag