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Theories of Social & Cultural Reality

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1 Theories of Social & Cultural Reality
Raul A. Mosley Theories of Social & Cultural Reality

2 The Social Construction of Reality

3 My meanings and understanding come from my communication with others.
Primary thinkers: The Social Construction of Reality Peter Berger Thomas Luckmann

4 Basic Idea of SC Illustration of a classroom exercise in which students arrange a group of objects in different categories (size, use, color, etc.). Language gives me labels to distinguish the objects in my world.

5 Common Assumptions of SC
Communicative action is voluntary. Knowledge is a social product Knowledge is contextual Theories create worlds Scholarship is value laden.

6 Communication Perspective
SC enables communication to be viewed as a perspective, rather than a subject matter. Barnett Pearce Communication and the Human Condition Perspective: A way of looking at or thinking about something. How should we look at something? Whenever I look at something in terms of how it is constructed in interaction among people, I am taking a communication perspective. Pearce’s Model (The Resource-Practice Loop) Resources: all the building blocks I work with in life (ideas, values, stories, symbols, meanings, institutions, etc. used to build my reality). Practices: what I do or perform (behaviors, forms of expression, actions). Resources & practices are closely connected through my interaction with others.

7 The SC of Self Rom Harre: explains how I account for my behavior in particular situations. Ethogeny Developed by Harre & Secord Ethogeny: the study of how I understand my actions with a predictable sequence of acts, called episodes (an event with a beginning & end that all people would agree on). Helps determine what the episode means and how people understand the acts involved in it. Structured Templates These are theories about the course of action anticipated in the episode. Example: 2 people have a theory of what it means to be “in love” and how that should be acted out. Episodes are governed by rules.

8 Concept of Self Also important to Symbolic Interactionism.
I learn to understand myself by using a theory that defines myself. The two sides of Personal Being: Person (Public): a publicly visible being that is characterized by certain attributes and characteristics established within a culture or social group. Governed by my cultures theory of personhood. Self (Private): My private notion of my own unity as a person. Governed by my theory of of my own being. Learned through my interactions with others.

9 The self consists of a set of elements that can be viewed spatially along three dimensions.
Display: whether an aspect of myself is displayed publicly or remains private. Realization (the source): the degree to which some feature of myself is believed to come from me or the group of people around me. Individual realization: elements coming from me. Collective realization: elements coming from others. Agency: the degree of active power I attribute to myself. Active elements: such as speaking or driving Passive elements: such a listening or riding.

10 Common elements in theories of the self:
Self-consciousness: I think of myself as an object. Double Singularity Principle (Harre): the consistency with which I define and practice I1 & I2. The group’s idea of self must treat each I as a consistent unity. I must see me as me, not as Batman, etc. Agency: I have certain powers to do things. Seen when I plan something. Autobiography: A sense that I have a history and a future. Seen when I tell you about me.

11 The SC of Emotion Emotions (James Averill)
Are belief systems that guide my definition of the situation. Consists of internalized social norms and rules governing my feelings. Syndromes: Averill’s label for emotions. A set of responses that go together. Socially constructed. Each emotion has an object. How an emotion is labeled plays a role in how the emotion is experienced.

12 4 Rules That Govern Emotions
Rules of appraisal. Tells me what an emotion is, where it is directed, & whether it is positive or negative. Rules of behavior. Tells me how I should respond to the feeling: to hide it, express it in private, or vent it publicly. Rules of prognosis. Defines the progression and course of emotion. How long should it last, what are its different stages, how does it begin, how does it end? Rules of attribution. Dictates how an emotion should be explained or justified. What do I tell other about it? How do I express it publicly? Example: “She was acting like a jerk and that made me mad.”

13 Accounts in Social Construction
Accounts: how I justify or explain my behavior. John Shotter: Communication-Experience Loop Communication determines how reality is experienced. The experience of reality affects communication. I am inseparable from society. I am not independent.

14 Rules: Guidelines for action & meaning.
Rules & Social Action Rules: Guidelines for action & meaning.

15 Rule-Governing Approach
Susan Shimanoff Rule: “a following prescription that indicates what behavior is obligated, preferred, or prohibited in certain contexts.” Rules must be followable. Rules are prescriptive Rules are contextual Rules specify appropriate behavior. Rules are best stated in the if-then format.

16 How to Find a Rule: If you can answer yes to all three questions, you have found a rule: Is the behavior controllable? Is the behavior criticizable? Is the behavior contextual? Finding rules is not always easy. Overt sanctions are the easiest to find. Repairs, such as apologizing, often show that a rule has been violated.

17 How People Use Rules Rule-fulfilling & rule-ignorant behaviors
Acting without knowing the rule. Conforming & error behaviors Governed by rules, although I am not thinking at the time about whether or not I am following the rule. Rule-following & rule violation behavior I consciously follow or violate a rule. Positive reflection or negative reflection Following or violating

18 Coordinated Management of Meaning
Barnett Pearce, Vernon Cronen, & colleagues. This is the most comprehensive rule theory of communication. CMM integrates work from: System theory Symbolic interactionism Ethogeny Speech acts Relational communication

19 I act & interpret on the basis of rules. Two types of rules:
Constitutive rules Rules of meaning To interpret or understand an event or message Regulative rules Rules of action To determine how I should respond. These rules are always chosen in a context. Context: a frame of reference for interpreting an action. Four typical contexts: Relationship context: the mutual expectations of all involved. Episode context: the event itself. Self-concept context: my sense of personal definition. Archetype context: an image of general truth.

20 Text-Context Loop Patterns
Text: an event or action being interpreted. Loop: each is used from time to time to interpret the other (Reflexivity). Charmed Loop: each context confirms the other. Strange Loop: each context disconfirms the other.

21 Logical Force Logical force: rules tell us what interpretations and actions are logical in a given situation. Four types of logical force: Causal Force (Prefigurative) I feel I am being pressured to spend the weekend with my in-laws. Practical Force I act to achieve a goal (study to get an A, pass the course, etc.). Contextual Force Pressure from the context. I may go to grad school because I feel this is just who I am (self-concept context). Implicative Force Pressure to change the context in some way, such as the context of family expectations.

22 The Coordination Process
Coordination: involves the meshing of my actions with those of another to the point of feeling that the sequence of actions if logical or appropriate. It is possible with CMM for me to have a perfectly satisfactory coordination with you without understanding you.

23 Language & Culture Sociolinguistics: any study of language that makes use of social data, or, conversely, any study of social life that makes use of linguistic data.

24 Linguistic Relativity
Sapir Whorf Hypothesis The way I see the world is shaped by the grammatical structure of language. Study of the Hopi Indians. Reality is already imbedded in the language and therefore comes preformed (in contrast to the social constructivist approach).

25 Elaborated & Restricted Codes
Basis Bernstein Shows how the structure of language used in everyday talk reflects and shapes the assumptions of a social group. Basic Assumption: the relationships established in a social group affect the type of speech used by the group. Further, the structure of speech used by the group makes different things relevant or significant. I learn my place in the world by virtue of the language codes I use. Codes: sets of organized principles behind the language employed by members of a social group.

26 Elaborated Codes Restricted Codes
Provide a wide range of ways to say something. More complex. I can make my ideas and intentions explicit. Require more planning. Appropriate for groups who don’t share my assumptions. Restricted Codes Have a narrower range of options. Easier to predict what form it will take. Do not allow for me to expand on what I mean. Appropriate for groups in which my assumptions are shared.

27 Open and Closed Role Systems
Open-role system Expands the number of alternative for individuals in the group. Use of elaborate codes. Person-centered families. Closed-role system Reduces the number of alternative for the participants. Use of restricted codes. Position families.

28 Commentary & Critique

29 SC fills in the gaps left by symbolic interactionism.
SC is popular because of its intuitive appeal. What is the role of interaction? SI assumes that language is an outcome of interaction (thought-language). Sapir & Wharf: language precedes interaction (language-thought).

30 Opposition to SC Because SC conflicts with the concept that reality is objective and independent. Many believe that the rock exist before we even begin talking about it. Structuralists contend that human experience is largely universal, owing to a common biological inheritance and common cognitive structure. Chomsky: language structures are universal. Osgood: the dimensions of meaning are universal.

31 Ellis’s Challenges to SC
Communication cannot proceed without assuming that we live in a world of a priori realism. We must assume that we are all talking about the same thing. Based on two principles: Semantic Realism Words have standard meanings. When I say “football” to Craig, I assume that he knows what I am talking about. These meanings are fairly stable. Meaning itself is real. Coherentism Meanings must be verifiable in experience. A table is a table because I can see it and touch it. This does not mean that the table exist objectively, but that we can all assume it does based on our common experience of “tableness.”

32 Facticity of Objects Social constructivists do not deny that the locomotive exits. The issue is not whether the locomotive exists apart from human construction, but how it it seen, what it is, and how it relates to other objects in my experience. The locomotive can never be viewed as meaningful apart from human experience.

33 A Serious Question If reality is socially constructed, then how can we produce generalizable knowledge? If communication is context bound, then how is theory possible? Cappella: “In short, when competing knowledge claims are generated, how will they be adjudicated?” Good communication theory should not attempt to achieve a standard set of criteria. It should be judged in terms of its utility and its potential for enriching human experience.

34 The Basic Issue of SC Is communication a tool for communicating accurately about the world, or is it the means by which the world itself if determined?

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