Interview Project Part 2: Describe and Analyze Cultural Models

Goal: To find and document cultural models used in the construction of meaningful passages in your interview.


  1. Search:
    1. Look through your interview transcript for evidence of cultural models. It may be necessary to go back and listen to your whole interview again to find passages that contain clear cultural models. Choose a passage that makes it easy for you to find and document the cultural models involved.
    2. Consider each word in a transcript. Pay attention to detail. As you go along, make sketches, notes, rough drafts, of models. Try highlighting in different colors to represent emerging categories of events in the material.
  2. Analysis: Describe the cultural models that are required to make sense of, or establish the meaning of, the passage. Make sure that your description is accurate and clear. You might consider expressing it in a diagram or some other notation. Show how these models are used in the passage and how the passage relies on the listener having access to these models. Describe any inferences that the passage suggests. How is the listener expected to go beyond what is literally present in the passage? If possible, provide other evidence (beyond the inference or interpretation that is to be explained) in support of the claim that these models are cultural models.
    1. Choose to develop models that are well supported by the data. You will need to choose, and in order to choose intelligently you will have to do at least a partial analysis. This means that you will probably discard some part of the analysis you do. This is normal. It is the right thing to do.
    2. Describing the model. Use text for the full description. Be sure to include the parts of the model that are necessary to understand the material. As you develop the description of the model continually test it against the data. You may include other parts of the model too. If you do, try to indicate which parts of the model are needed to understand the data, and which are not.
    3. Represent the models as diagrams or in propositional form. This process will help you get the details of the models right, will help you see and understand the relations among models (hierarchical, sequential, competing, etc.), and will allow you to write the main description and analysis sections more concisely.
    4. Examine the role of the models in the organization of the material. This is the big question. Cultural Models organize meaningful discourse. Your job is to show which models organize the discourse you examined and show how those models were used by your informant (or author of other media) to construct the inscription you examined.
    5. Once you have identified some models, you can ask (and answer) these questions. Where does the model appear to be at work? What is it doing? How is it instantiated? (for example, informants often give a specific instantiation before a more general statement of the structure of the model). How is it related to other models? Here is where taking your time and attending to details pays off. Insight will be rewarded. You can discover something new while doing this. Even if it is only new to you, it’s important, and genuine discovery is a great feeling. Writing up steps 5 and 6 will produce the analysis section of your paper.
    6. Include the data! Attach segments of transcript or photocopy of other media. Be sure to make it easy for a reader to find the elements of the data to which you refer in the description and analysis.
  3. Write it up including all of the above. When you make a claim about the presence of a model, you may wish to include brief excerpts from the transcripts in the body of the text in support of your claims.

Maximum 1000 words of text. You can include additional figures and tables if they contribute to the description.

Due 4/2

Credit to Ed Hutchins from whom I’ve adapted this project idea and taken some of the text for the directions.

2 thoughts on “Interview Project Part 2: Describe and Analyze Cultural Models

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