Interviewing your Double
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Interviewing your Double

Time
120 minutes
What you need
Audio recorder or smartphone, pen and paper, meeting space
Who you need
2+ people
'Interviewing Your Double' is a semi-structured interview where the respondent explains to the researcher how to do a task or process, or how they might successfully do their job if they were in their shoes. It can provoke reflection on the tacit knowledge possessed by workers, as well as everyday modes of resistance.

Purpose

As a form of 'practice research' looks to reveal ‘tacit’ or ‘craft’ knowledge - for example, the kinds of knowledge needed by an apprentice. It can also be used in a more expansive way to explore broader aspects of workplace cultures, power relations and the boundaries between work and other activities. It is best used in combination with other approaches such as observation, diary keeping or document analysis.

Participants are asked to imagine that they have a 'double' who will replace them at their job the following day: what sort of instructions would this 'double' need to make sure they were not detected as a replacement?

We can use IYD to draw out the tacit knowledge, skills and abilities that workers draw upon daily in their jobs. The idea is that we can capture aspects of experience and knowledge that might otherwise go unnoticed, both by researchers and workers themselves.

Advantages

The advantage of this method is that it provides a contextualised account of the day-to-day realities of work that the ‘double’ needs to know, rather than general descriptions of ideal behaviours that would be obtained by asking for a set of instructions for a generic worker.

In practice

The broad, opening question asked is:

What would I need to know in order to do your job?

However, we can sometimes draw out more interesting reflections by asking:

How would I need to behave in order to do your job in your place and evade detection?

This encourages participants to think about the social interactions of their workplace, rather than focusing exclusively on technical issues like the nature of tasks, locations of equipment and organisational questions (Nicolini, 2009). 

A whole range of questions can be asked, in order to flesh out the minute details of their working life, revealing a myriad of previously overlooked relationships of power and identity. For example:

Do I need to dress smartly or casually in order to fit in?
Do I eat my lunch on my own or do I usually have a buddy?
Do I need security clearance to get into the building?

To use some of the technical language associated with workers' inquiry, framing your questions so as to get to the heart of the social relationships in the workplace can help orient discussion towards issues of political and social composition (i.e. how work might connect to class struggle and broader social dynamics). Other questions, relating to the tools and hardware of the workplace, point to the technical composition of workplace activities.

Make sure to record this interview so you can transcribe it later.

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Examples

Fiat, OIivetti and Other Italian Settings
Italy
Tech Workers' Coalition discussion template
United Kingdom

Further Reading

This method is an adaptation of the 'Interview to the Double' method, which has been previously used in a number of different contexts. Please see the resources below.

Gherardi, S. (1995) ‘When Will He Say: ‘Today the Plates Are Soft’? The Management of Ambiguity and Situated Decision-Making’, Studies in Cultures, Organizations and Societies, 1(1),  9-27.

Lloyd, A. (2013). Following the red thread of information in information literacy research: Recovering local knowledge through interview to the double. Library & Information Science Research, 36(2), 99-105. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2013.10.006

Nicolini, D. (2009). Articulating practice through the interview to the double. Management Learning, 40(2), 195-212. doi:10.1177/1350507608101230