Studying social practices and global practice change using scrapbooks as a cultural probe

Cecily Maller, Yolande Strengers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Empirical work on household consumption informed by theories of social practice has grown exponentially in the last few years. This is partly due to conceptual developments positing practices as being comprised of materials, meanings and skills. Such formulations are readily applied to empirical investigations. As the aim of a growing body of empirical work with theories of social practice is to present evidence for how practices can, should, have or might change in the future towards improved sustainability, greater questioning and broader reflection about methods and approaches would be helpful. In the interests of contributing to such methodological discussions and broadening out the range of tools available, this paper is concerned with how to study the processes and dynamics involved in the globalisation of practices. We do so by adapting a method of scrapbooking used as a cultural probe in human–computer interactions research. We apply this method in a qualitative study with international students studying in Australia where we combined interviewing techniques with a purpose-designed practice memory scrapbook containing a variety of images of current and historical practices. Practices of interest were those related to keeping warm, cool, laundering and bathing. We found the scrapbook useful in four main ways: it facilitated discussion about mundane everyday practices; it uncovered assumptions about “normal” ways of carrying out everyday practices; it foregrounded the absence/presence of material elements; and it facilitated reflection on how practice entities are changing. We conclude that the practice memory scrapbook is a useful and complementary qualitative research method to consider in studies seeking to understand the practice dynamics involved in globalisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-73
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • globalisation
  • migration
  • scrapbooking
  • social practice change
  • students

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