Ways of “doing” Symbolic Interactionist Research

In situ research or ‘doing’ whatever situated activity of everyday life is being researched involves the researchers immersing themselves into the situated activity in question. It is a particular approach to research that interactionists have made their own.

Prus is the only interactionist I know who has devoted his life’s work to ‘doing’ situated activities. I have discussed his work in an earlier post: https://socialconstr.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/symbolic-interaction-and-ethnographic-research/.

The only researcher I have found in Sweden who does this research is Michael Tholander, at Linköping University. His research interest is “A conversation analytic perspective on social interaction, with a special focus on issues such as morality, democracy, power, rhetoric and assessment.”, and his dissertation was on “Doing morality in school”. Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, 256. Linköping University: Department of Child Studies.

Hopefully there are others, as my search was not exhaustive. But the number of interactionists in Sweden is growing all the time, which is very encouraging.

Mary Lorenz Dietz, Robert Prus and William Shaffir (eds) Doing Everyday life: ethnography as human lived experience (1994) is an interesting sample of studies, some giving considerable opportunity for exploring in-depth the human lived experience from a number of areas. The book is intended as relevant to introductory students, but has some useful chapters for anyone considering this approach to doing ethnographic research. The quality of the chapters is mixed, and there is nothing like the work of Prus on ethnography, nor even the study of an Italian slum by Foote Whyte. These kinds of intensive participant observation studies that can take many years to complete seem to be less common today.

There are ways round this, like careful choice of situations to enter, perhaps a context with which the researcher is familiar: a housing researcher doing interaction in a housing exchange, for example. Or a medium book-length project, of the sort Gary Alan Fine has done in several different contexts. I will look at some of these in future posts.

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