Documents and material artifacts are often overlooked in data collection yet are nonetheless key features of the social world that acquire shared meanings, histories, and conventional usage. They are also appropriated, altered, and resituated over time by individuals. Choose a document, a photograph, or a material object that you have found in the setting you have been observing or belonging to someone in that setting. In a four -page (double-spaced) essay, explain the social significance of the document, photograph, or object, making sure to include a photocopy, sketch, photograph, short video, weblink or careful description of the itemwhatever format you feel appropriately represents your object of study. Be sure to consult with at least one person about the items importance in that particular setting; if the item belongs to someone, make sure that you ask him or her about the artifacts significance. Include an analysis of that object.
Documents and material objects are anything found in a setting: report cards, photographs, websites, concert programs, maps, books, clothing, jewelry, furniture, toys, maps, community bulletin boards, trash, mission statements, policy manuals, student handbooks, transcripts, diaries, letters, demographic material, website descriptions, blogs and podcasts. Be creative! Buildings and spaces are also important aspects of material culture, and some of you may wish to focus on the materiality of spaces. In your essay, please include an introduction that describes your rationale for choosing the document: Why did you choose it? What significance does this object seem to hold for you, for others? Or, why did you ask so-and-so to bring in a photograph, journal, toy (etc.)? What was it you were seeking to find?
In addition to a rationale, please consider some of the following categories and questions posted at the end of this assignment for your writeup. While there are many ways to interpret and analyze materials, I offer a few that might help you organize your thoughts. You do not need to address all of these in your write-up; choose those that make sense to you.
In the closing of your essay, please comment on the themes or patterns that can be gleaned from the document and the information contained within or about the document, further questions it generates for you, and the ways in which the document is consistent or inconsistent with other sources of information about the setting (e.g., Whitt, 1992).