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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Home Economics

First Advisor

Sandra J. Evers


The purpose of this research is to use appropriate available theoretical work to develop a theory base where one is lacking for the interaction of the human and an artifact in the environment. This is to be accomplished by identifying, investigating, and describing an intersection between the theory of two developing areas of study: material culture studies and nonverbal communication. Field research on the topic entails (1) recording and describing potters' nonverbal behavior with two pieces they have made: one considered "special" by the potter; the. other considered "not as special; " and (2) recording and comparing the potters' concurrent verbal comments about each piece. Specific objectives are: Objective 1. To describe the verbal and haptic behaviors of a potter when showing handmade objects of varying importance to an interested observer. Question la. people verbally describe their own "special" and "not as special" handmade objects? Question lb. How do people handle their own "special" and "not as special" handmade objects? Objective 2. To identify incidents of congruence and incongruence between the verbal and haptic behaviors of potters. Question 2a. What haptic behaviors do people exhibit in conjunction with verbal expressions of specialness of handmade artifacts? Question 2b. What concurrent verbal and haptic behaviors are congruent or incongruent with Mehrabian's (1971, P.1) immediacy principle? Objective 3. To understand the meanings associated with touching objects of differing specialness from both the emic and etic perspective. Question 3a. What do handmade objects mean to their makers, i.e. why is or is not an object special? Question 3b. What is the meaning understood by or ascribed to touching artifacts from an emic (the maker's) perspective? Question 3c. What is the meaning understood by or ascribed to touching artifacts from an etic (the researcher's) perspective? Three factors were influential in the choice of potters as a category of people as subjects for this exploratory study: 1. Potters' use of hands in forming artifacts would indicate a highly developed haptic experience. 2. The researcher's theoretical and experiential background in ceramics would (a) facilitate entry to the field, (b) enhance credibility with subjects, and (c) allow identification and differentiation of haptic behaviors which are associated specifically with the making of pottery from haptic behaviors in general. 3. Ceramic articles are both fragile and permanent. Although they are easily broken, the bits .and pieces out last most other artifacts of a culture. These ceramic artifacts have become a rich source of data for both archaeologists and material culturists.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Communication and culture
Material culture
Nonverbal communications




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