Skype Me

How can what originally started as a researchers dream turn into such a nightmare? It seemed so easy, almost, as they say in Hollywood films before something bad happens, too easy. We are constantly reminded that the internet is a dangerous world; ‘protect your children from the cyber-paedophiles’, ‘never give out your bank details’, ‘terrorists masterminds use the internet to recruit suicide bombers.’ But nowhere is there the warnings ‘BEWARE OF BORED SCOTS PRETENDING TO BE CZECH’ or ‘PROTECT YOURSELF FROM 14 YEAR OLD STALKERS’. And frankly, this is an oversight on the part of all European governments and something needs to be done about it if we are to protect the continents anthropologists and sociologists from a similar fate.

A Match Made in Migration Research Heaven

So, there was the challenge: find a Czech working in Britain for a research project. There was the research tool: Skype, the most popular VOIP, a way for people to talk and chat for free over the internet. Using Skype It’s possible to search for people by country, language and name. So it is simple enough to search for people with Czech names, or with their language preference set to Czech, living in the UK. There were thousands upon thousands of them. And a good proportion of them got the following message, ‘Dva výzkumníci hledají Čechy pracující ve Velké Británie pro případovou studii o pracovní migraci. V případě zájmu prosím kontaktujte na skype, Jan (Two researchers are looking for Czechs working in the UK for a research project on migration, if you are interested please contact me via Skype)

Then there is the expectation and anticipation, which to a researcher bored at work, is the pinnacle of excitement. Nothing. So you wait. You’ve never used Skype before and wonder if you’ve done something wrong. Then you start to search for your friends and see if they have Skype just to check whether the messages get through. They do. You can’t concentrate on your work. You wonder if the 246 characters allowed by Skype in a greeting message could have been used more wisely. You begin to doubt your abilities as a researcher, even as a human being. Fundamental questions about your competencies spin through your brain.

You wait.

The clock ticks.

You wonder why the clock is ticking when it is digital.

Then suddenly from nowhere the screen lights up with a blue flashing light. Someone is trying to start a text conversation with you. Quickly you grab the mouse and swing the cursor towards the box, your eyes burst out of their sockets with the anticipation of success and your brain begins to dance the conga. You click to see what they have written not even pausing to see the name… it’s your workmate. He wants to send you a link to a funny article. He’s sitting less than a metre away. You can even smell is hygiene problem. You tell him. He cries. It’s a bad day at the office all round.

“Ay, I’m A Czech Alright Laddie”

As the weeks rolled by the Czechs started to reply and we started chat, it was easy, it was fun and was working perfectly. Despite the advantages of this distanced research, which allows space and a lack of intimacy which can often be useful in the early stages, there are also many problems. Admittedly people can lie in person, but it’s far easier to pretend that you are something you’re not in cyber space. This can be frustrating as the researcher, in this case an overworked susceptible young novice, can waste lots of time.

This conversation started normally enough:

[16:57:34] grammo007 says: how long its gonna take?

At this point there is no reason for me to suspect that he is anything other than he claims he is. After asking me about a few practicalities he sounds like he wants to be friendly.

[17:03:23] grammo007 says: where r u now?
[17:03:29] sinisterpenguin says: Praha
[17:03:46] grammo007 says: is the weather allright overthere?
[17:03:57] sinisterpenguin says: It’s lovely

As much as I want to talk about the weather there are important things I need to know.

[17:05:01] sinisterpenguin says: do you mind me asking what work you do?
[17:05:29] grammo007 says: im working at the buildig site.
[17:05:46] grammo007 says: btw. i live in dundee SCO
[17:07:27] grammo007 says: ney worries…okey dokey…we can do that, Ill be happy to help u.

This research lark, I am smugly thinking, is really easy. I’m a natural.

[17:07:59] sinisterpenguin says: Brillaint. Do you want me to quickly tell you more about the project?

I reasoned that if I were going to be a part of someone’s research I might want to know some more information.

[17:08:07] grammo007 says: well, what do u thing about czech birds?…:-)

This guy obviously doesn’t. But I persist.

[17:08:10] sinisterpenguin says: message or call?

And give my opinion on the Czech birds.

[17:08:12] sinisterpenguin says: hot.

Unfortunately however we can’t actually talk.

[17:08:54] grammo007 says: my microphone is juts now…kinda….fucked…:-)
[17:09:56] grammo007 says: btw…my name is Vit…

[17:11:07] sinisterpenguin says: I’m Jan BTW

I am suspicious at this point. I’ve never heard the Czech name Vit  and he is responding so quickly. I decide to check whether he really is who he says he is.

[17:15:35] sinisterpenguin says: where abouts in CR are you from?
[17:16:29] grammo007 says: north east….i live about 6 miles from polish and 6 miles from slovakien borther.

He fails to give me a place name and changes the subject.

[17:17:13] grammo007 says: I know quite a lot of them…:-)…i mean czechs.
[17:17:22] sinisterpenguin says: in Dundee?
[17:17:33] grammo007 says: ay

‘Ay’ a very Scottish turn of phrase. How interesting I think that he is picking up the local dialect, there might even be an interesting story in that. Meanwhile I show my stupidity and complete inability to spell.

[17:17:53] grammo007 says: Thats the place..:-)
[17:17:57] sinisterpenguin says: sounds like a phenonoma
[17:18:02] sinisterpenguin says: i can’t spell

[17:18:48] grammo007 says: phenonoma…?never heard of this word.
[17:19:29] grammo007 says: and dictionary neather..:-)

[17:19:34] sinisterpenguin says: its becuses i can’t spell it: Phenomena is hopw it should be spelt
[17:19:48] sinisterpenguin says: i mean its sound like a trend…. czechs in Dundee

I could justify this episode by claiming that I deliberately showed some character flaws to put the migrant at ease so he would be more revealing to me, but the truth is my spelling is on par with a dyslexic 9 year-old. At least dyslexics get free computers of the government all I get is laughed at.

[17:23:11] grammo007 says: its not like, i choose to come an work in Dundee…there is a long story behind it.
[17:23:44] sinisterpenguin says: But is it intereting and do you want to tell it?
[17:24:44] grammo007 says: …i said its a long story….we dont have that much time…:-)

I was planning two weeks of research. A long story sounded just like what I wanted.

[17:27:11] sinisterpenguin says: can I call u, on a real phone next week? just to arrange when its good for you and if we can come up to sctoland and visit
[17:27:30] grammo007 says: ….ok…if u want. (gives number)
[17:28:15] sinisterpenguin says: cheers, what time and day is good for you?
[17:28:23] grammo007 says: best time for that would be about 16:30
[17:28:38] sinisterpenguin says: monday?
[17:29:27] grammo007 says: monday ill be probably still pissed…what about thuesday?

I was strangely impressed by this claim.

[17:30:28] sinisterpenguin says: okay, tuesday is good. I se you are getting into the scottish lifestyle
[17:30:46] grammo007 says: just a wee bit….:-)
[17:31:50] grammo007 says: To be honest, im a hard working cunt…m8, now is it 4weeks im working in a row.

And then it’s these two phrases which made me a little suspicious. It is really unlike a Czech to describe themselves as ‘a hardworking cunt’ and very like a Scot. ‘Wee’ is what Scots use instead of small. But, if he has lived there a while why wouldn’t  he pick up Scottish phraseologies.

He also seems reluctant to stop chatting with me. We chat for around 45 minutes, I even start chatting to a hot girl I know who I notice is on-line so I don’t get bored. And then I realise my mistake it happened at 17.02 and 57 seconds. In response to his question about where I was from.

[17:02:57] sinisterpenguin says: Okay: I was born in GLOSSOP near manchester

Scots hate the English with a passion born from hundreds of years of being occupied and laughed at by those south of the border for being a nation of alcoholic skirt wearing savages. And here is this online Braveheart taking this English loser on a merry dance round cyberspace for his afternoon kicks. He is one of the thousands who lives online because as I observe over the next few weeks he is always on Skype. Unsurprisingly he doesn’t answer his phone and never responds to any of my attempts to contact him.

Down Wit’ Da Kids

[14.7.2006 16:55:46] Krystof says: Zdravim
[14.7.2006 16:56:30] sinisterpen… says: Hi
[14.7.2006 16:57:07] Krystof says: Hi,man u sent me some kind of chat which was saying that u r scientist or something ? 😀
[14.7.2006 16:57:34] sinisterpen… says: Researcher looking for a Czech living in the UK and working.
[14.7.2006 16:57:48] sinisterpen… says: But i looked at your profile and guess that as your 14 your probably not working

[14.7.2006 16:58:02] Krystof says: exactly
[14.7.2006 16:58:25] sinisterpen… says: Fair enough. My bad. Have fun skating.

This sounds patronising but I meant it. Anyway I thought he would leave me alone as I was working.

[14.7.2006 16:58:34] Krystof says: nevermind
[14.7.2006 16:58:42] Krystof says: np I surely will
[14.7.2006 17:03:33] Krystof says: WTF ?!?
[14.7.2006 17:03:42] Krystof says: u’ve got 400 contacts 😀
[14.7.2006 17:03:46] Krystof says: bloody hell

WTF is “what the fuck“ for those uninitiated in on-line chatting.

[14.7.2006 17:04:08] sinisterpen… says: it happens when you contact everyone with a czech sounding name in the UK
[14.7.2006 17:04:43] Krystof says: hah man im glad tht my job’s gonna be different 😀
[14.7.2006 17:04:56] sinisterpen… says: why what’s your job going to be?
[14.7.2006 17:05:07] Krystof says: 3d modeller
[14.7.2006 17:05:27] Krystof says: i’ve starte few months ago
[14.7.2006 17:05:58] Krystof says: before tht i was doin webdesign n flash

[14.7.2006 17:06:33] sinisterpen… says: cool….
[14.7.2006 17:06:52] Krystof says: hah still better thn urs 😀
[14.7.2006 17:06:56] Krystof says: just kiddin

Cocky little kid. I ignore him.

[14.7.2006 17:07:36] Krystof says: hm…interesting and will the czech people get anything ?
[14.7.2006 17:07:45] sinisterpen… says: i might by them a beer
[14.7.2006 17:07:49] sinisterpen… says: (beer)

[14.7.2006 17:07:57] Krystof says: xD
[14.7.2006 17:08:01] Krystof says: cmon is that it ? 😀
[14.7.2006 17:08:15] Krystof says: and how much do u get paid ? 😐

I tell him. A mistake it seems.

[14.7.2006 17:09:10] Krystof says: hm…that aint so bad/good 😀
[14.7.2006 17:09:48] Krystof says: as a 3d modeller ill get paid about 35k

[14.7.2006 17:10:39] sinisterpen… says: much better than me
[14.7.2006 17:10:44] Krystof says: xD
[14.7.2006 17:10:48] Krystof says: cmon this is London

[14.7.2006 17:10:54] sinisterpen… says: but there are more important things than cash
[14.7.2006 17:10:59] sinisterpen… says: 35 is still a lot

[14.7.2006 17:11:11] Krystof says: thats true there are more important things
[14.7.2006 17:11:49] Krystof says: lika a girlfriend ? 😀

[14.7.2006 17:12:34] sinisterpen… says: exactly. I’m off now. It’s too sunny to stay in work. Have a good weekend mate (dance)
[14.7.2006 17:12:45] Krystof says: surely will m8

Next week I log back into Skype to check whether or not there are any post-pubescent labour migrants that want to talk to me.

[18.7.2006 17:12:52] Krystof says: FUCKING HELL
[18.7.2006 17:13:08] Krystof says: im going to Czech this tuesday and i cant w8

No. Just my favourite 14 year old. Of course one of the beauties of on online research is the ability to end all relationships with a simple click of a button. Bye-bye Sk8er Boi.

Even though I spoke to scores of Czechs in the UK over a two month period my research method had proved fruitless. I was about to consign the idea to the great methodological dustbin when, on the last day I could have given to this method, as I had just arrived in Britain and had to start the actual process of interviewing at that week, I got the following message:

[20.08.06 17:08] Marek says: Hi, yeah I am Czech working in UK, what would you need to know for your work?

I tell him

[20.08.06 17:20] Marek says: What a coincidence, that’s just what I wrote my final thesis on at university… of course I’ll be able to help you

And the rest, as they, is history, or at least a novice’s attempt at research.


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