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The existential dimension of narrative futuring : a replication and expansion of Velthuis' typology of letters from the future

Herrmann, S. (2014) The existential dimension of narrative futuring : a replication and expansion of Velthuis' typology of letters from the future.

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Abstract:Aim: The purpose of this study was to do further research on the types of future narration in the letters from the future, based on Grete Velthuis’ study ‘Assessing the Existential Dimension in Narrative futuring: Development of a Working Model’. Narrative futuring is described as the ability to create a future based on life stories (Sools et al, 2013). The existential dimension therein establishes a major foundation for our sense of being human and deals with themes like death, freedom, and meaning as well as responsibility. It is expected that the reflective process from writing a narrative will possibly provoke existential questions about the future. Different types of future letters are indicative of the presence of existential themes. The present study aims to validate the classification of letter types. Method: First, 50 letters from the future (a letter based on an imagined situation in the future to oneself or others originating from that future point in time) were analyzed by two independent researchers, based on the six types of letters (Continuous Idealistic Future, Discontinuous Idealistic Future, Choice and Consequences, Problem and Solution, New Start and Advice). Then the inter-rater-reliability was measured with the statistical program SPSS. Afterwards, the code system for letter types was modified to remove possible redundancies and extended to cover different types of letters. Finally, based on the new code system, a second analysis, now using a larger sample of 293 letters, was conducted. Results: The inter-rater-analysis shows that Cohen's Kappa has a value of 0,463 (p<0.0001), indicating a moderate correlation and possibility for improvement in the coding scheme. Three problems were encountered. First, Velthuis’ description of two types of letters causes possible redundancy and is not sufficiently exact. Second, two further types of letters were found and described in this sample. Third, more than one type of letter was sometimes found within the same letter. Therefore, the dominant letter type as well as other types fitting the individual letters were taken into account and documented. The analysis of the validation sample has shown that the distribution of types is different from Velthuis’ findings. About 1/3 of the letters (33,4%) contain more than one type of letter. Moreover, the type of letter ‘Advice’ was often found within another type of letter (61 times), but rarely as the dominant type (33 times). The new letter types were not often found (2,0% and 2,4%). Conclusion: The main conclusion that can be drawn from the present study is that the letter types that are related to existential themes can be found in the letters from the future. The code system given by Velthuis is an important basic work. This study, however, has revealed some overlap between letter types as well as two further letter types. Furthermore, by categorizing a letter by only the dominant type, a lot of existential information is lost. Further research should clarify whether the letter types indeed reveal indications of existential questions. For therapy in particular, writing a letter from the future may make existential themes discussable.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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