Getting Connected: How Sociologists Can Access the High Tech Elite

By Undheim, Trond Arne | The Qualitative Report, June 2003 | Go to article overview

Getting Connected: How Sociologists Can Access the High Tech Elite


Undheim, Trond Arne, The Qualitative Report


Elite studies have been relatively neglected in the qualitative methods literature (Coleman, 1996, p. 336; Hertz & Imber, 1995). As a consequence, the interview methods literature in the social sciences does not adequately address the issue of access to elite interviews. Nor does it address the elite interview process itself (Breakwell, Hammond, & Fife-Schaw, 1995; Brenner, Brown, & Canter, 1985; Crabtree & Miller, 1992; Fog, 1994; Fowler & Mangione, 1990; McCracken, 1988; Stewart & Cash, 1997; Sudman & Bradburn, 1982; Weiss, 1994). Despite its elite sample (scientists, engineers, policymakers) the science and technology studies (STS) community (Undheim, 2002) suffers from the same lack of attention to access, with Traweek (1995) as a notable exception. The author discusses the small literature on qualitative elite studies (Hertz & Imber, 1995; Walford, 1994) as well as contributions on elite interviewing (Burgess, 1988; Cassell, 1988; Dexter, 1970; Moyser, 1988; Spector, 1980; Thomas, 1995). Practical consultation for interview practice is also given. Seeing access as an ongoing, precarious process, the author recommends improvisation by ways of a threefold journalistic, therapeutic, and investigative modus operandi. The author draws on a study of the situated nature of high tech practices and is based on interview experience with knowledge workers, experts, and high tech CEOs in the United States, Italy, and Norway. As well, he brings experiences from a previous study of regional innovation in Norway and Great Britain (Thorvik & Undheim, 1998).

Key Words: Interviewing, Elites, Access, Modus Operandi, Interview Literature, Knowledge

Introduction

Elites are people who occupy, by heritage, merit or circumstances, a key place in power networks both online and offline. Often associated with power, privilege and position, the elite might not as such constitute, or embody readily observable traits, or group itself in a way that is easily categorized. Rather, the elite way of influence is sometimes better described in retrospect, by analyzing how actor-networks were mobilized. Actually, elite impact is often quite invisible, and the most influential might not look like they are. This, of course, is also due to the prevalent elite strategy of staying behind the scenes while deploying a multi-faceted power game. Here, online elites play a particular role, immersed as it were in cyberpower (Jordan, 2000), largely invisible to most of us, yet arguably quite effective also in manipulating real-life events (Nye, 2002) .

In the following, I will discuss how elites can be found, accessed, and interviewed, starting out with an analysis of the science and technology studies (STS) community as well as some classic approaches to interviewing found in the existing literature. Scholars who study the interplay of technical, scientific and social aspects of reality (STS) are critical towards taken-for-granted assumptions about how society is configured. Rather, they prefer to show the precise construction of actor-networks by tracing the impact of technological determinism, identifying actors and their place-making, that is, the ongoing sense making, cooperation, and exchange online and offline (Undheim, 2002).

Since science and technology is widely regarded as housing elites, I will start there. While a substantial part of the science and technology studies (STS) literature investigates people and settings that we normally would classify and regard as elite, relatively little is written about how these groups and settings were accessed. However, access to high-energy physics labs, molecular biologists, or NASA scientists, is not self-evident. In fact, we should assume that there must have been many barriers before access was obtained, restrictions that were encountered underway, and many missed attempts at access that are not reported. This makes access a more interesting phenomenon, a feature of STS research in need of more sustained reflection. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Getting Connected: How Sociologists Can Access the High Tech Elite
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.