Article

Social Construction

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz

in Communication


Published online June 2016 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0106

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Briefly, social construction (SC) assumes that people construct (i.e., create, make, invent) their understandings of the world and the meanings they give to encounters with others, or various products they or others create; SC also assumes that they do this jointly, in coordination with others, rather than individually. After several decades of varying usage (often constructionism and constructivism, with or without the adjective social, discursive construction, co-construction, joint construction; overlapping terms include interpretive approaches, social approaches, constitutive, and constructive), social construction is the term of choice in the 21st century. SC is a theoretical approach used not only in communication but also in psychology, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, and education. As scholars in each of these disciplines tend to go in different directions, and as there have been far more publications on this topic than could be included here (if all disciplines were considered), those within the discipline of communication are emphasized (i.e., either a publication by a scholar based in a communication department, or one published in a communication journal). Although clearly within the communication field, SC studies of media form a separate strand not included here. Two conferences helped substantially in expanding the use of the concept within communication. The first was “Inquiries in Social Construction,” held in Durham, New Hampshire, in June 1993 and organized by Sheila McNamee, John Shotter, John Lannamann, and Kenneth Gergen, leading to the book series of the same title at Sage, co-edited by Gergen and Shotter. The second was a National Communication Association Summer Institute, “Catching Ourselves in the Act: A Collaborative Planning Session to Enrich our Discipline through Social Constructionist Approaches,” held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in August 2006, which was organized primarily by Barnett and Kim Pearce, Shawn Spano, Karen Foss, and Kris Kirschbaum, leading to the establishment of the Communication as Social Construction Division (CSC) within the National Communication Association, now the focal point of work on the topic. CSC organized a panel in 2009 evaluating the contribution of SC to the discipline, which was videotaped and analyzed in Robles 2012 (cited under General Overviews). Two nonprofit organizations have been established to pursue SC goals: the Taos Institute and the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM) Institute for Personal and Social Evolution. There have been several other relevant book series: Social Construction in Practice and Social Approaches to Interaction, both at Hampton, as well as Focus Books (brief introductions), Tempo Series (contemporary practices), and WorldShare Books, all of which have an SC emphasis and published by Taos Institute.

Article.  18059 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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