Published August 9, 2021 | Version v1
Conference paper Open

An Intermediate Conclusion – Potentials of Artefact Analysis for the Field of International VET Research

  • 1. Universität Kassel
  • 1. University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, Switzerland
  • 2. University College London, UK
  • 3. University of Teacher Education Bern, Switzerland


Context: Sometimes international Vocational Education and Training (VET) research has to delve deep into cultural context in order to understand the reasoning and action of individuals related to training and work. The project Cultural Practice of Non-Academic Work in Mexico (KuPraMex), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), explores social representations of non-academic work in Mexico using the analysis of non-visual and visual cultural artefacts (Bohnsack, 2008; Lueger, 2010; Lueger & Froschauer, 2018). This approach is currently discussed by disciplines such as the social sciences. Although the analysis of artefacts, within the scope of sociological theory formation, is rather a marginal phenomenon (Lueger & Froschauer, 2018), its relevance for theorising cannot be negated (Lueger, 2010). Artefacts are put into the material world by people and therefore represent the practices through which they were created. On the other hand, their creation is not without effects on the social world (Lueger & Froschauer, 2018).  

Approach: For this reciprocity, artefact analysis seems an attractive way to analyse complex interactions between individuals, social structures, and cultural contexts in foreign societies. Within the project KuPraMex a comprehensive analysis of visual as well as non-visual arte-facts is carried out, related to the cultural context of Mexico, in order to analyse prevailing connotations, images, etc. of non-academic work. In the words of Moscovici (Moscovici, 1988), the aim is to identify the circulating social representations. On the grounds of this, the potential of artefact analysis for cultural sensitive studies in foreign VET-systems like Mexico will be discussed. 

Findings: In the context of the above-mentioned project, it was possible to get an impression regarding the central core of social representations (Abric, 1993) of non-academic work by analysing artefacts such as tele-novelas, films, memes, murals or novels. With the help of theoretically-based analysis schemes about social formations of labour, as well as open minded search for in situ findings, the international project team was able to extract core hypotheses about social representation of non-academic work in various working fields.  

Conclusion: The core hypotheses about work deduced from circulating narratives and representations found in cultural artefacts proved to be very helpful for the next steps in the project. Especially in pandemic times when it is impossible to travel to a country to get familiar with the research context, the analysis of reports, scientific literature and cultural artefacts can be helpful to familiarise oneself with a unknown context. This way of approaching a (partly) unknown research context seems to open up a more holistic view of a cultural context. Due to this multi perspective approach a certain degree of cultural awareness for the scientist can be expected. Moreover, it can support the development of meaningful survey instruments. However, as each method has its limits, it makes sense to combine artefact analysis with other methods, such as interviews. Overall, it can be concluded that the analysis of artefacts holds great potential for culturally sensitive international VET research and – in combination with other methods – it contributes to a deeper understanding of culturally shaped meanings and values.  


VETNET ECER Proceedings 2021 Hunink, Claudia.pdf

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