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Making a Scientist: Discursive "doing" of identity and self-presentation during research interviews.

Participating in an interview is taking part in an activity system that is often very different from the daily lives of most individuals. Grounding ourselves in an activity theoretic perspective, we regard the interview event and who or what these agents become during that process as an outcome of the activity of "doing interviews." In contrast to the modern concept of identity, a stable and characteristic feature of an individual, we understand identity as arising from social interactions-identity and activity are said to be in a dialectical relationship. Interviews are thus occasions whereby identity and issues of self-presentation have to be managed by agents primarily through discourse processes. By further regarding interviews as "topic" in this article we make salient their co-constructive nature qua social interaction rather than as a neutral data gathering tool. Our case study of an interview with a renowned environmental scientist demonstrates how identity and issues of self-presentation were discursively played out using the concepts of "stake" and "footing." It was found that our participant came to be a full-fledged member of the scientific community with traits typically ascribed to scientists such as expertise, objectivity, passion and disinterestedness. This discursive "doing" of identity and self-presentation during research interviews is a pervasive effect and cautions practitioners against treating interviews as an unproblematic methodology.

Lee, Y.-J., & Roth, W.-M. (2003). Making a scientist:Discursive "doing" of identity and self-presentation during research interviews [37 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/ Forum: Qualitative Social Research [On line Journal], 5(1). Available here

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