Interview-Work: The Genealogy of a Cultural Form

Although the interview is a ubiquitous technology of knowledge production, it has rarely been treated critically as a media form in itself. In my book manuscript, Interview-Work: The Genealogy of a Cultural Form, I trace how this mode of representation has migrated from newspapers to documentary film, television, and digital formats. Looking at this historical development, I argue that the significance of the interview derives from the ways in which it produces and represents social relations at the same time that it reifies individual identity and opinion. Over the course of the book, I also demonstrate how the interview is an ideological and aesthetic form that has emerged as a central device for the creation of content, one that circulates almost invisibly – delivering representations of personal experience and expression that articulate and reproduce the distinctions between the individual and society, and the private and public in ways that shape the very definition of what constitutes work and politics.  The chapters treat the first interviews in British newspapers in the 1840s; the emergence of the interview as a commodity form on American television; the relation between group interviews, feminist consciousness-raising and ideology critique in political documentary films from the 1960s and the 1970s; and the proliferation of the interview on the Internet and the persistence of the interview’s association with liberal notions of democratic media. Looking at the interview’s movement across formats and media, I argue that the trans-medial character of this cultural form simultaneously illustrates and complicates theories of medium specificity and I suggest a theory of media that accounts for the relation between media form and shifts in the mode of production.