Tesla´s impact on young people´s opinions on live quality in Grünheide
Tesla´s impact on young people´s opinions on live quality in Grünheide

Tesla´s impact on young people´s opinions on live quality in Grünheide

by Philipp Kleimon

Abstract: The construction of Tesla´s Gigafactory in Grünheide brought a lot of changes for people in the region. In the context of structured face-to-face interviews adolescent residents of Grünheide were given the opportunity to express their opinions on those changes. Those opinions varied considerably. Furthermore, it is reflected on difficulties in connection with our project´s implementation.

For the seminar´s interview project our group of six decided to interview adolescents from Grünheide. In particular, we were curious to find out about a potential impact of Tesla´s Gigafactory on their opinions on Grünheide as a place of residence.

As for the process of finding a research question, our overall approach for the organization of individual tasks was mostly influenced by pragmatic considerations: Communication mostly took place via Whatsapp, since in-person meetings were difficult to arrange. Opportunities for personal exchange were within and around the timeframe of our seminar´s weekly meeting.  Working with OpenDocument applications made it further possible for everyone to include their ideas or to comment on other group member´s efforts. Consequently, we did not assign static roles for the organization process. Rather, everyone participated within the realms of their capacities.

For the practical implementation of our research idea, we decided on conducting structured face-to-face interviews. It was assumed that participants would occupy different standpoints regarding the topic of Tesla, thus our interview guidelines mainly included open-ended questions. Sampling was done via e-mails and phone calls to local institutions (secondary schools, youth club, girl´s handball team) at first. After this approach had not produced hoped-for results, a part of our group more successfully convinced a number of young people to participate in our project on a trip to Grünheide.

For my individual interview with 17-year-old Jan I prepared by making notes on possible follow-up questions to our guideline´s questions. Since I had not conducted an actual interview before, I was mainly worried about getting carried away by the course of the interview and forgetting to ask about important aspects. After my colleagues had reported about their difficulties in encouraging detailed answers from their interview partners, I further thought about questions and strategies that might motivate engagement from Jan. Much to my surprise, Jan answered my questions in much detail and often replied in a quite associative manner. In doing so, he touched on different aspects of Tesla´s impact on Grünheide that I had not thought of before. Unfortunately, I missed opportunities to follow up on some of those themes and aspects. This I immediately realized by reflecting on the course of the interview afterwards. It seemed that having been to satisfied with Jan´s performance led to me less actively engaging with his answers. For future interview situations I therefore plan to be less influenced by an expectation of a worst-case scenario, but to consider the widest range of possible situations.

Another aspect that I had difficulties to deal with was my interview partner´s ability to influence the course of the interview. I was caught by surprise, when the Jan revealed to be in a hurry due to personal obligations at the start of the interview. My offer to postpone the interview to a later time was declined. While listening to my recording of the interview afterwards, I realized that I had talked in a rather quick manner, probably because of having felt pressured to rush through the more formal share of questions. This circumstance might have contributed to my interview performance, that was rather focused on covering all the questions that I had prepared.

The comparison between our group members´ individual interviews produced a varied picture of participants´ opinions on Grünheide and Tesla: We can cautiously conclude that Tesla´s Gigafactory does not seem to influence young people´s life plans in a major way. Rather more interestingly, it is the difference of attitudes towards our project and the range of opinions regarding various aspects of Tesla´s presence in the region that point towards more or less manifest conflicts among Grünheide´s residents.

Regarding our project´s implementation It is to be noted that there are some aspects that could have been improved: Firstly, because of our pragmatic approach to the organization of the interviews, participants were sometimes asked to do interviews with project members who were not present during the process of sampling. As a consequence, some participants communicated with up to three group members in order to find an appointment for the interview. We concluded, that this situation could have been avoided by working in smaller groups of two or three. Secondly, we observed that stating our relation to Humboldt- University did not seem to have increased people´s motivation to participate in our project. Since the highly politicized discourse around Tesla gets a lot of attention by public media, it can be assumed that residents of Grünheide are afraid about their opinion potentially being amplified on a public stage. In similar situations it might seem advisable to reduce an impression of formality by avoiding meaning-loaded concepts such as “interview” or “study” while presenting a project. Lastly, we felt that each doing a larger number of individual interviews would have enriched our reflection process significantly. On a positive note, one can therefore look forward to further opportunities for conducting interviews.

 This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.