Participants were asked the following question:
Framing it as a letter to a friend hopefully encouraged people to write in more or less their own voice. I didn’t want them to answer in a way that was too formal—I just wanted their thoughts, as uncensored as possible. The amount of censorship their thoughts went through is, of course, unknowable, but hopefully I did not encourage it. “Be as comprehensive or as curt as you think you need to be” came from a similar line of reasoning.
The rest of the questions made sure participants were alright with their responses being shared, and ascertained whether or not they lived in the US. I wasn’t sure from the outset if I wanted to limit my scope to only American citizens (current or former), or if the descripions of non-Americans would also be included. It ended up that all participants were in America anyways.
To be fair, I was a little uncharitable with my interpretations of the descriptions. But I think this is justified. Of course I know what respondents mean, but that’s not what I’m after here. I only know what they mean because my brain interprets their words and fits them into the image of the American flag that I have in my head already. To interpret their words charitably—to fit them in with the image I have in my head—would be to defeat the purpose of the project to begin with.
But there were some occasions where I needed to use my own subjective understanding of the words. What is a deep blue? What is the color of a fire engine? At what point is something no longer in the corner? I can’t expect respondents to name a hex code when they describe a color, nor can I expect coordinates when they describe location. So, I opted for a (subjectively) literal interpretation of their words. For example, blue describes the color corresponding to hex code #0000ff. That’s an arbitrarily "blue" hue at full saturation, zero shade, and zero tint.