Friday, October 5, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 12.4 Valitity as a social construction

12.4 Validity as a social construction

Validation of the qualitative interpretations I have done in this dissertation is taken care of by amongst others quoting the participants in the text. These quotations are a selection which are chosen in order to support what in my opinion seems to be to be most relevant in relation to the exploration of the concept and phenomenon of shame within the context of a Norwegian Incest Centre.  Guba and Lincoln (2005) argue that validity can be seen as a different form of authenticity, as a form of resistance, and as an ethical relationship. Kvale (1996) writes that validity in qualitative research has to do with craftsmanship. This involves checking, questioning, and theorizing. Lincoln and Guba (2002) also write about the importance of the writer’s emotional and intellectual commitment to craftsmanship. According to Holstein and Gubrium (1995), the key to the interview is the active nature of the process involved which leads to a contextually bound and mutually created story. One way of viewing validity in such a mutually created story can therefore be discussed in terms of its authenticity, resistance, ethics and craftsmanship. Kvale (1996) says that this means that validity is also a social construction.

Fontana and Frey (2005) argue that active interviewing is a form of empathetic interviewing which they call “…a method of morality because it attempts to restore the sacredness of humans before addressing any theoretical or methodological concerns” (Fontana and Frey 2005: 697). They say that if one accepts that neutrality is not possible, then taking a stance is unavoidable.

The new empathetic approaches take an ethical stance in favour of the individual or group being studied. The interviewer becomes advocate and partner in the study, hoping to be able to use the results to advocate social policies and ameliorate the conditions of the interviewee. The preference is to study oppressed and underdeveloped groups (Fontana and Frey 2005: 696). 

Asking questions and getting answers is, as mentioned above, much more difficult than it may seem at first. People involved in the interview may choose different strategies in asking questions and in giving answers. Both parties in the interview can work strategically. Law (2004) writes that

Realities are produced along with the statements that report them. The argument is that they are not necessarily independent, anterior, definite and singular. If they appear to be so (as they usually do), then this itself is an effect that has been produced in practice, a consequence of method (Law 2004: 38).

The problem is not only what we do, but also how we do it. Knowledge is not just the objective result or product of scientific work, such as can be recorded in articles, doctoral dissertations or other scientific presentations, but also something we do and we call this productive activity scientific research. Research is a creative and interpretive practice. Holstein and Gubrium (2005) explain that

Interpretive practice engages both the how’s and the what’s of social reality; it is centered in both how people methodologically construct their experiences and their worlds, and in the configurations of meaning and institutional life that inform and shape their reality-constructing activity. A growing attention to both the how’s and the what’s of the social construction process echoes Karl Marx’s (1956) adage that people actively construct their worlds but not completely on, or in, their own terms (Holstein and Gubrium 2005: 484). 

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