Existing methodological efforts subsume the interview into broad epistemological abstractions, neglecting actual mechanics of the interview as practice, and dismiss linguistic and cultural asymmetry in the interview as a matter of (in)adequate resources. Reflecting on 24 semi-structured interviews exploring social media use among Hong Kong youth, this article develops a culturally sensitive approach that democratically exposes the way cultural norms surface in communication, using strategies which (a) transform the dialogical mechanics of an interview—reflecting back and encouraging; (b) transform the positionality of the researcher—building intersubjectivity and emotional rapport; (c) transform the context of the interview—making shifts in space, language, and presentation. In doing so, a culturally sensitive approach generates practical recommendations for (a) humanizing the researcher to dismantle power imbalances and social distances and (b) naturalizing the interview into a more conversational form, both of which combine to expose the cultural logics that govern action and interpretation whilst constructing results into intimate narratives of people’s life-worlds.


Qualitative Interview, Dialogue, Culture, Power Relations, Positionality, Intersubjectivity, Narrative Construction, East Asia

Author Bio(s)

Anson Au is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Toronto, a Visiting Scholar at Seoul National University Asia Center and Yonsei University, and a former Research Officer in Social Policy at the London School of Economics. His research deals with culture, health & medicine, social networks, and social scientific research methodology. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: anson.au@mail.utoronto.ca.


I express my gratitude to Matthew Chew and the Department of Sociology at Hong Kong Baptist University for hosting me as a Visiting Researcher, where part of this research was conducted. Thanks are also due to Zhiheng Chen and Julia Ma for their research assistance.

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