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Constructivism as a Key Towards Further Understanding of Communication, Culture and Society

Raivo Palmaru

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Context: The interest of communication scholars in (radical) constructivism is fuelled by the need to radically rethink the theoretical assumptions that have governed most media and communication research for the past three or four decades. Problem: On at least two points, constructivism poses difficulties that need to be overcome by scholars of communication. These are the attitudes of many radical constructivists towards “reality” and the constructivist position with regard to “society.” The article seeks to clarify the constructivist position with regard to social interaction and society by determining how successful communication among individuals is possible, despite their cognitive autonomy. Method: In order to contribute to a discussion about the current situation in communication and media studies, the article takes up the author’s argument that communication cannot be understood unless models describing it are centred on the individual. Based on this conceptualisation, considerations about the ontological assumptions of constructivism and the constructivist position with regard to social interaction are revisited. Results: It is argued that (a) cognition is not pure self-reference; (b) society cannot be considered simply as an individual construct; self-organisation also occurs at the supra-individual level, where shared knowledge and socio-cultural meanings emerge in the operatively closed motion of the successive communicative elements. Implications: Clarifying the constructivist position with regard to society can contribute to innovative theory building and research in communication science, and in the social sciences more broadly.

Key words: Communication, sense, meaning, self-organisation, adaptation.


Palmaru R. (2016) Constructivism as a key towards further understanding of communication, culture and society. Constructivist Foundations 12(1): 30–38. http://constructivist.info/12/1/030

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