Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 12.3 The co-construction of reality

12.3 The co-construction of reality

Holstein and Gubrium (1995) reject the idea that clear answers are given by a respondent if the researcher is clear enough with regards to the grounds of the interview and they offer an alternative form of inquiry which they call the active interview. They say that interviews are social productions, where the researcher and respondent (storyteller) construct a story and give it a meaning together. Lincoln and Guba (1985) claim that the active interview is a constructional activity and that this not only has consequences for the production of scientific knowledge, but also for the way researchers collect data when they are conducting interviews. Flyvebjerg (2004) emphasizes the importance of the researcher’s knowledge of the context that is being studied.

If one thus assumes that the goal of the researcher’s work is to understand and learn about the phenomena being studied, then research is simply a form of learning…the most advanced form for understanding is achieved when researchers place themselves within the context being studied (Flyvebjerg 2004: 429).

Holstein and Gubrium (1995) describe the active interview as a reality-constructing and meaning-making occasion. In their opinion, all interviews are active interviews. Knowledge can be seen as a social construction and the active interview sets the stage for a co-construction of meaning between researcher and informant.  The researcher and informant create meaning and knowledge together in a dialog with each other. Interviewing is not just a neutral exchange of questions and answers, but a collaborative effort. The more traditional perspective is that the researcher is an objective, neutral expert, and the informant is seen as a passive container filled with information. If the researcher asks the right questions in the right way, then the answers will also have a high validity. The informant has a truth that the researcher tries to unveil in a methodologically correct fashion. This is the conventional, positivistic perspective of interviewing that misjudges how complex, exclusive and uncertain each interview really is. 

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