OSWE Telephone Interviews

What is the telephone interview?

The Online Survey of Wisconsin English (OSWE) Telephone Interview consisted of a reading of “The Story of Arthur the Rat,” a 100-word pronunciation list, and a 15-minute conversation. The anonymous recordings will be used by language researchers to determine how pronunciation has changed over the last fifty years and see whether it differs from one part of the state to another.  They are also available for anyone and everyone who might be interested in these recordings, and we hope that people take advantage of this extremely valuable resource. Eventually, the recordings will be given a permanent home at UW Digital Collections in .wav format.

Go to the Collections:
Arthur the Rat Pronunciation List Conversations + Transcripts

Who participated?

Participants, called “Respondents,” were unpaid volunteers who needed to complete at least one section of the Online Survey of Wisconsin English and agree to participate in the telephone interview. They needed to have lived at least 15 years in one of the 52 target communities. Twenty-two of these communities  were “Legacy” communities, the original communities visited for the 1965–70 DARE Survey. Whenever possible, the conversations have had information that may identify the Respondent or the Interviewer replaced by a beep.  The conversations have also been transcribed and a [beep] indicates this in the text.

In regards to representing who Wisconsin is today, we got mixed results. We did not succeed in getting an accurate cross-section of the racial and ethnic diversity of Wisconsin.  We did manage to collect 43 interviews from Respondents who have lived in 24 different communities, the majority of those living there most of their lives. All but six Respondents were female. All three age groups were represented, as well as varying levels of education, and community sizes. View map and complete demographic data here.

Who conducted the interviews?

Both the Online Survey and Telephone Interviews were administered by the University of Wisconsin Survey Center (UWSC). We are very grateful to John Stevenson, Associate Director, Ken Croes, Senior Project Director, Nadia Assad, Project Director, Brendan Day, Programmer, and all the excellent call center Interviewers. The UWSC Interviewers are highly trained and regularly monitored to maintain professional standards. In addition to their training with UWSC, they also received additional training and instruction for the OSWE project. Together, DARE and UWSC developed scripts and question prompts for Interviewers to use. They were also required to perform mock interviews with volunteers before the survey period began. Of course, they were given different instructions than the Fieldworkers in the 1960s and used a more structured format for the conversation, in part due to human-subject ethics and protocols which simply didn’t exist in the 1960s. All in all, DARE found the Interviewers to be highly professional, extremely courteous, and genuinely interested in what Respondents were saying. We are grateful to everyone at UWSC for their extremely high-quality work.

Recording quality

For now, the recordings are in .mp3 format due to size, but .wav formats will eventually be available at UW Digital Collections. Some of the recordings were done in mono, but most in stereo.  Though most of the recordings are clear, we did have varying results with audio quality. Whenever possible, we reduced background noise using the open-source software Audacity. Efforts were made to include as many interviews as possible, especially for target communities with low participation. While we did not exclude any interviews based on content, we did have to remove some from the collection due to low audio quality. If you were a Respondent and do not find your interview here, it is for this reason and we sincerely apologize.

Thank you Respondents!

We are most grateful to all of you for taking time out of your busy lives to provide this tremendous resource.  As we certified, fixed audio issues, transcribed, and proofread, we found your interviews to be interesting, educational, and inspiring. Your many different educational and career paths, hobbies and interests, and globe-trotting experiences were fascinating. And there were some pretty good book, tv, and movie recommendations to boot. Not to mention road trip ideas!

There were a few themes we noticed as we listened.  No matter where you lived, many of you were proud of the good schools, beautiful natural areas, and cultural activities your communities offer. It was also notable how many of you said your community had a small-town feel, no matter what size—from Linden to Milwaukee!  Maybe those similarities point to the things that matter to people in Wisconsin, regardless of the many ways we are different.

So often we hear, read, watch interviews of “famous” people that we forget every person has a story to tell and that we don’t need the extreme highs or lows to learn what it is to be human. Thank you all for volunteering your time, your words, and your stories for all to learn from, perhaps in unforeseeable ways.

With appreciation and admiration,

DARE Staff