February 7, 2003

Interview Questions

Category: Anthropology — Biella @ 1:51 pm

Do anthropologists harm the communities they study?

This is a large, loaded, smoking-gun, hot-pistol sort of question that requires a verbose answer that I can’t write up right now but there are these moments when you feel good about being an anthropologist, knowing that you did influence things in a positive sort of way. This happened recently when a Debian developer asked if he could post his answers to my email interview questions on his website. I have to keep all my research material confidential (here is the consent form that interviewees have to sign unless they want to go ahead and make it public. And I guess this fellow developer liked his answers and thus posted them here.

When he asked me whether he could post them, I asked him why he wanted to do this, to which he replied:

Since I sent in those answers, I have continued to inform myself with
regard to these issues. However, I am definitely grateful for having sat
down and sorted out all of thoughts about intellectual property, patent
law, free software, Debian and how each of these things relate to the
others. Now when I read something new, I have a sort of “base” of
coherent ideas from which I am working.

The reason that I want to post my answers on my web site is that I am
quite proud of the synthesis work that I did when I completed the
survey. In the spirit of the free software community, I would like to
post my answers online so that others can read them and perhaps benefit,
or even suggest a comment or two in order to further a point (or debate
a point) that I made.

Can’t complain too much about the process of injecting some reflection and reflexivity… So don’t run away right away when an anthropologist comes knocking at your door although more on the perils of anthropology later!

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