My Whole Life in Telephones: Material Artifacts as Interview Elicitation Devices

Mette Simonsen Abildgaard*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)
    361 Downloads (Pure)


    In this article, I address 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, I propose a method for materially oriented qualitative interviews, in which historical artifacts are used as elicitation devices. I focus on three ways in which material devices can aid historical research in interviews: I first emphasize 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, I suggest 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, I propose 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. I end by discussing the possibilities for improving the “materially oriented qualitative interview”—method and applying it in other contexts.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Methods
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


    • ethnography
    • historical narrative
    • husserlian phenomenology
    • narrative research
    • oral histories
    • phenomenology


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