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My Whole Life in Telephones Material Artifacts as Interview Elicitation Devices

Last modified: 12.11.2018

In this article, Mette Simonsen Abildgaard addresses a methodological issue that has come into focus after the advent of the "material turn " ; the matter of how to study historical, sociomaterial practices. In response, she proposes a method for materially oriented qualitative interviews, in which historical artifacts are used as elicitation devices. She focuses on three ways in which material devices can aid historical research in interviews: She first emphasizes that materiality can aid the qualitative interviewer by providing specificity, as the material presence of historical artifacts can urge participants to remember details, directing the conversation toward the specificity of mundane artifacts whose characteristics can be difficult to recollect. Second, she suggests that such artifacts may be used also to aid narrative structure, guiding and prompting participants to follow the story they infer from a particular setup of artifacts. Third, she proposes that the active engagement with historical artifacts in the qualitative interview allows participants to access body memories of using these artifacts, eliciting the particulars of abandoned bodily practices. she ends by discussing the possibilities for improving the " materially oriented qualitative interview " —method and applying it in other contexts.

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