Here are the notes I made for myself as part of the First-Person Target writing project.
Vest Project Rules:
- I had to wear the vest whenever I was outside of my house for any extended period of time. If I ducked outside to take out the trash or let out the dog, it didn’t matter. Other than that, wherever I went, it went for the week.
- Behave normally in terms of showing it. It’s about 30 degrees out here, so I’m not walking across campus without a coat just to show it off. However, it’s like 1,000 degrees in my classroom, so I’m not covering up with a coat.
- Answer questions but don’t make a point to introduce it. When people ask why I’m wearing the vest, explain it’s a writing project and that you’re trying to see how it feels to be aware of this layer of protection. Don’t go out of your way to go up to people you see who are staring.
- Don’t wear it when you know you’re going to get messy. It’s a borrowed item and an expensive one at that. When you’re working on stripping furniture or sanding something, you’re not wearing it. When you go out to eat, you are wearing it. Just be careful.
- Attempt to engage but don’t escalate. If someone in public asks you to take it off, explain what you’re doing and that it’s not illegal. If someone in charge asks you to remove it or leave their place of business, state your case, but do as they ask. Document and move on.
- People in my life aren’t props. Amy and Zoe know what I’m doing and are happy to go as far as they’re willing to go. Interview subjects who know what I’m doing are named. Everyone else interacting with me will be unnamed. It’s not their fault I’m weird.
Source and interview rules:
- I’m not looking for official sources or “sides” but rather people and perspectives. The people have to have some level of connection to what I’m doing, where I am, the topic at hand or something along those lines. I also have to get a sense about them that they care to actually explain the how and the why aspects of their points. No meme and bumper-sticker bullshit. I’m not trying to find the guy who wears flag underpants and keeps screaming the text of the Second Amendment at me. I want people, not caricatures.
- Offer multiple times but don’t be a jerk. If people decide they don’t want to participate, find someone else or realize that’s just not going to happen. For this to work, people have to trust you and feel comfortable with you. That’s not going to happen if they feel pressured or obligated.
- I have to be ethical and give them multiple chances to agree or bail on this. Opening with emails or phone calls to explain the skeleton of the project and why I think they matter to it. Do interviews in person when possible. When I sit down, no notes, recorder or anything and I explain the vest, what I did and why I did it. I then ask if they’re still interested. If they are, I ask if I can type notes and if I can record. Recordings won’t be posted, but just for me to pull quotes and back myself up if something goes south.
- Listen, don’t argue. Your point isn’t to make a point. That’s where everyone gets in trouble. Ask people to explain things to you. Don’t let bullshit slide, like if someone says that no one ever died in Guam because guns don’t exist or something, ask them for a source. However, if they make a statement of belief: “I feel safer if I know there’s no guns around.” That’s their right to say and you’re not there to argue about the thing.