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Social Construction of Reality

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: December 12, 2004
Latest Update: December 12, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site Traveling Exhibit Plans for Social Construction of Reality
Many of you created games and interactive displays for the Naked Space Exhibit on Transforming Dominant Discourse. There wasn't enough time or space for us to go deeply into any of them at the gallery exhibit. We'd like to do more with them on the Virtual Exhibit and at small exhibits that we plan to offer next semester to local schools.

The theoretical background for one of these exhibits will be the social construction of reality. No, we aren't going to use that language. Not quite appropriate for fourth graders. But we'll base our exhibit on the theory. I got the idea from Alex Pineda, Jenny Silva, and Celia Piz who did an exhibit based on Rablelais' frozen words: once the words or spoken, they are always there, to melt back into your lives in the most unexpected ways. They built the exhibit on the tragedies of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

I'd like to plan this traveling exhibit for young children, maybe using the idea of musical chairs. If we remove a chair with each musical phrase, then we exclude someone each time. But when the game is over, and we go back to class things, we exclude no one. We can transform reality by adding chairs for the Other, and by taking them away. Which one feels better? I hope, being included. Maybe they could learn the words "inclusion" and "exclusion," and develop beginning understandings of how exclusion doesn't feel good to the Other who is excluded. We might also consider how this is a zero sum game, and how we could change it into a fun game that is non-adversarial.

For fourth graders, causing an accident, by not looking both ways, by driving too fast, by not paying attention, by drinking could help them understand that such reality cannot be changed. Like the frozen words of which Rabelais spoke, once said, they're always there, waiting to melt. Once the cars are crushed, we cannot socially construct the accident away. We could also stick to crushed cars instead of dead people for these younger children.

We might let them replay the game with non-crushed healthy cars, and let each player take a card as they approach the intersection. The cards could say things like:

  • Stopped and looked both ways before crossing.
  • Turned around to ask friend if he could come over; didn't see other car.
  • Was really into his music; didn't see the other car.
  • And so on. . .

Then the children could decide whether they should enact a crash with their little cars, or whether they were all safe. This would also teach them that it only takes one unsafe driver to cause a crash.

I'd like you all to play with variations on making all age groups aware of the difference between what's out there that we can't change and what's out there that is socially constructed by us, so that we could change it. For example, for older age groups we might want a game to consider the way our society handles punishment, retribution, and restorative justice once one of these unalterable events has occurred. A game would give people a good chance to talk of such things more deeply.

Because we are trying to draw awareness to the problem, we want simple, almost intuitive games. No time to read complicated instructions. Think of variations you could do using Lori's delightful mobile. For example, one drunk driver could override all the precautions and careful driving of the others.

Discussion Suggestions:

  • We could take this same approach with making college students aware of the consequences of getting into a car, whether they're driving or not, if the driver is drinking. Can you imagine scenes that would be almost intuitive that students could easily manipulate. Like maybe a student could draw a card with choices like: one beer, one shot, one mixed drink, etc. if we knew how each of those affected his/her driving skills. We could do a mobile by adding different weights for the drinks taken. Play with the ideas.

  • We could take this same approach with smoking and use it at many age levels. Lori's idea of all the good, healthy things you do, could be outweighed if you chose to start smoking. There's a mobile with lots of impact.

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