Object interviews as a means of studying everyday life
Since the material turn in the social sciences, researchers have been exploring new ways to engage with the objects and materials of everyday life. Such methods aim to overcome subject–object binaries, placing the very substance of materials at the core of their inquiry (Gregson and Crewe, 1998 ). This chapter takes one such approach – object interviews – to explore how objects and materials structure our everyday lives and relationships. This method involves not only unearthing the significance of objects to their owners, but also
There are, as we have seen, very many reasons for historians to be interested in the insights that material culture can unlock. However, for objects to yield rewards we must employ tried and tested strategies for examining them. Such established approaches have emerged from distinct disciplines and professional practices, which have their own histories and intellectual concerns. This chapter provides an introduction to the origins of historical material culture studies in terms of both academic research and museum practice, so that we can understand not
Adored, forgotten about, potent and mundane objects
Material collections have been understood as a form of ‘special’ consumption, consisting of items separated off from use (Belk, 1995 ); if we approach them instead through the lens of the mundane, houses and other everyday spaces are full of collections of objects which include the used and the unused, the special and the forgotten about (Woodward and Greasley, 2015 ). A wardrobe is a case in point – containing cherished items like a wedding dress, habitual items we wear all the time like a pair of jeans, and items that never make
History through material culture provides a practical introduction for researchers who wish to use objects and material culture as primary sources for the study of the past. The book focuses primarily on the period 1500 to the present day, but the principles put forward are equally applicable to studies of earlier historical eras. Histories of the last five centuries have been driven to a remarkable extent by textual records and it is with this in mind that History through material culture offers researchers a step-by-step guide to approaching the material evidence that survives from this period. Anticipating that many researchers will feel under-skilled or lacking in confidence in tackling artefacts of the past, the book traces the process of research from the framing of research questions through to the writing up of findings – giving particular attention to the ways in which objects can be located, accessed and understood. This practical guidance is augmented by the use of examples of seminal and contemporary scholarship in this interdisciplinary field, so that readers can see how particular approaches to sources have been used to develop historical narratives and arguments. It is written in accessible and jargon-free language with clear explanations of more complex discourses. In this way, the book demystifies both the process of researching objects and the way research practice relates to published scholarship.
Sarah Marie Hall, Laura Pottinger, Megan Blake, Susanna Mills, Christian Reynolds, and Wendy Wrieden
Food: the stuff of the everyday
Food is, quite literally, the stuff of the everyday. It punctuates daily rhythms, constitutes social relationships, and shapes economic and political systems. Whether by looking at its origins, cultural relations, environmental and health impacts, or economic implications, social researchers have long been fascinated with food. As a material substance, food brings people together, whether at dinner tables or at certain times of the year, as well as being a point of shared memories, experiences and practices (see
see a hierarchy of materials or a difference between the sensitivity
when mixing ink or making a meal. All endeavors in the atelier were
for the purpose of creating connections through chemistry.
At Crown Point Press, printers were compared to
laboratory assistants, executing experiments for scientists (read:
artists). The doctrine was to never say ‘no’ to an
artist's idea or
Jonathan Blaney, Sarah Milligan, Marty Steer, and Jane Winters
libraries and archives, but they too will be receiving, cataloguing and making available born-digital materials.
There will be no overnight change in how historians work, but more and more of us will be studying so-called hybrid archives, moving between the analogue, the digital and the born digital, and acquiring the skills to make those transitions. To facilitate this, memory institutions will have to rethink how they make their collections available. Primary sources are often divided by media format in physical libraries and archives, with manuscripts in one room
. Using this analogy, digestion and photosynthesis and gameplay are equally formal systems; and these formal systems can be identified – even if not entirely explained – solely with reference to those material components necessary to accomplish their most critical functions.
Suits’ definition of games and gameplay isolates what might be called “material components” of games: those that are most vital and most substantive. Therein, game objects are identified by their rules and the manner in which those rules simultaneously allow and prohibit progress toward “a
Jonathan Blaney, Sarah Milligan, Marty Steer, and Jane Winters
(women are given gendered titles, such as ‘Mrs’ in the directory, whereas men generally have no titles).
All this becomes feasible once we have the text in a machine-readable form, but there is still work to be done.
SCANNING THE DIRECTORY
The first stage in any digital history project that focuses on textual material is to acquire or create a machine-readable version of the data. By machine-readable we mean that text-based software can understand it as text . For example, a photograph of a page of text might be a digital object readable by image software such
assigned value and meaning by the game's own semiotic system – its own and no other.
Indeed, this is the sole purpose and power of what has often been called a “magic circle”: to separate games and gameplay from social and cultural reconstructions.
8.2 Magic circling
For Huizinga ( 1955 ) and other early play theorists, play is best made possible within its own restricted space – a magic circle: “[A]ll play moves and has its being within a playground marked off beforehand materially or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course” (p. 10