Thrown into Collaboration: An Ethnography of Transcript Authorization

Alexandra Kasatkina*, Zinaida Vasilyeva** & Roman Khandozhko***

*Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, St Petersburg**University of Neuchâtel, ***Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration

Collaboration in ethnographic research is on the agenda under current conditions of knowledge making. Yet social researchers mostly insist on their monopoly on production of primary sources and keep their archives closed. Meanwhile open digital publishing of research results, where representation of data is inseparable from its analysis, is gaining recognition as most fit to both intellectual and public expectations. When interview transcripts are published openly on-line, our field counterparts cannot be deprived of the right to control their contents anymore. The Obninsk project agenda includes creating an open on-line digital resource representing the results of field research on a local variation of big Soviet science. The perspective of open publishing the in-depth biographical interviews with professionals from a Soviet nuclear center made us introduce the stage of transcript approval (authorization) in our fieldwork.

The proposed paper intends to share field experiences of the four Obninsk project members engaged in the authorization experiment: brief email exchanges or short meetings to receive an authorized transcript, almost untouched, and days-long negotiations over every single detail, lectures about naturally occurred speech and methods of contemporary qualitative analysis, and informants’ attempts to make their own use of our research, reading aloud sessions for the visually impaired informant flowing into discussions and new interviews, and, eventually, working through corrected transcripts coming as edited Word-files or printed papers all scribbled. However, these various forms of cooperation still seem distant from co-authorship. “Co-authorization” is meant to describe and conceptualize the challenge to the conventional practice of archiving transcripts and change of the local moral order of our interdisciplinary research team.

Alexandra Kasatkina Alex graduated from MA programs in Religions of Asia and Africa (St Petersburg State University), Ethnology (European University at St Petersburg) and Sociology and Social Anthropology (Central European University in Budapest). She works currently as junior researcher in the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Russian Academy of Science), being also employed as researcher in the Obninsk digital project directed by Dr. G.A. Orlova (School Of Contemporary Humanitarian research (RANEPA, Moscow)). Her research interests are in the areas of field ethnography, discourse analysis, late Soviet urbanism and digitalization of qualitative data. The proposed chapter is going to be a collaborative work of the colleagues from the series of collective research projects focused on collecting and digitizing qualitative data on a local version of the Soviet atomic science in the city of Obninsk.

Zinaida Vasilyeva is an Zinaidaanthropologist interested in historically grounded and ethnographically driven research of post-socialist societies. Her academic background includes training in History, Anthropology and Science and Technologies Studies completed at the European University in St.Petersburg (Russia), University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland) and UC Berkeley (USA). At different times, she participated in various research projects focusing on the everyday technologies, ethnography of communications, and techno-scientific communities in the former USSR. Currently, she is finishing her PhD thesis on Do-It-Yourself practices and technical knowledge in late Soviet and post-Soviet Russia at the University of Neuchâtel and meditating on her next project about the post-Soviet infrastructures at Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography in Leipzig.

img_5337%d1%8fRoman Khandozhko is a research fellow at the School Of Contemporary Humanitarian research (RANEPA, Moscow). Roman holds a PhD (kandidat nauk) degree in history awarded at 2010 at the South Federal University (Rostov-on-Don, Russia). At 2012-2013 he was employed as researcher in the Obninsk project directed by Dr. A.L. Zorin to collect qualitative data on a local version of the Soviet atomic science. His research addresses social and political networking in the late Soviet Union and post-soviet Russia; intellectual anthropology of Soviet intelligentsia; politics of history in the Soviet and post-Soviet context.