A Corbeled Gallery work

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Radical Constructionism

Ama told me about this crazy thing called "radical constructionism." This interested me so I researched it a bit. I am not even sure if I read the right thing, because apparently this is a small school of thought. Anyway, Wikipedia says is a school of thought introduced into sociology by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann with their 1966 book, The Social Construction of Reality. The focus of social constructionism is to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the creation of their perceived reality. As an approach, it involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, and made into tradition by humans. Socially constructed reality is seen as an ongoing, dynamic process; reality is re-produced by people acting on their interpretations and their knowledge of it. Social constructionism is dialectically opposed to essentialism, the belief that there are defining transhistorical essences independent of conscious beings that determine the categorical structure of reality.

Within social constructionist thought, a social construction, or social construct, is an idea which may appear to be natural and obvious to those who accept it, but in reality is an invention or artifact of a particular culture or society. The implication is that social constructs are in some sense human choices rather than laws resulting from divine will or nature. This is not usually taken to imply a radical anti-determinism, however.

Some ideas which have been famously described as social constructs include race, class, gender, sexuality, morality, and even reality. Less controversial but equally important social constructs are languages, games, money, shares, nations, governments, universities, corporations, and other institutions.

So, what I understand, is that you have a product of stimuli, being the human animal. If you put them into a very different atmosphere, you can view this product very sharply through an effect called cultural shock. This closed system product will act according to how it has developed. I am still researching this, and I may not even be looking at the right thing. Ama, please correct me if I am completly off track.


Blogger Ama said...

Well, I wouldn't say you're necessarily far from the point, but you're talking about something else. Radical constructivism argues that knowledge is constructed and not "found," that it depends on a system reflecting upon something. In this way it isn't the "truth" either, in that it is a reflection of that system that has no real root in the "actual" state of things - that truth is impossible to find out, because in order to get it you must leave the system, but in doing so, you've just put yourself in another system, not the Environment of Truth. The really interesting part is that this theory argues that Absolute Truth exists, but we have no way (in our closed systems) of ever realizing it, nor is it important: our reality is constructed by our knowledge, so our "false" reality is more important, in a sense.

I found these (somewhat windy) articles online helpful, although the arguments are much more complex than the discussion we had in my class:



I'm really interested to hear what you all think of this theory. It raises many questions that perhaps I'll go into later. Of course I'm mostly interested in it's application to media, but it can be used in a variety of subjects.

5:57 AM


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