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Christina's LIS Rant
Saturday, October 14, 2006
  Random thoughts about blog conversation and social constructionist stuff...
First, warning: I have no communications background and am basing these musings on rather hazy understanding of things I've been exposed to recently...

There's this philosophy or epistemology, apparently, in which meaning and knowledge are constructed through social interaction [more]. I'm reading this article(*) seemingly on the conduct of focus groups, but which really has a social constructionist view. I was motivated to blog this when after reading two specific parts.
Conversation, public discussion, and gossip are all important processes in the production and reproduction of meanings in everyday life. Here we examine the idea that focus groups can be understood not by analogy to the survey, as a convenient aggregate of individual opinion, but as a simulation of these routine but relatively inaccessible communicative contexts that can help us discover the processes by which meaning is socially constructed through everyday talk. (p.85)

[based on Moscovici 1984, information from focus groups is...] understood to be socially generated rather than a "readout" of individual minds. Moscovici outlines four conditions for the emergence of social representations that parallel features of the focus group: (a) The representation of an issue must emerge through the conversation of ordinary people (the focus group); (b) a vital contribution is provided by "amateur scholars," who mediate between scientific knowledge and the laity (interested or knowledgeable parties may be found in the group or represented by the moderator); (c) the debate is typically held at a time of social concern or crisis (the topicality of the research); and (d) the social representation may emerge through a variety of debate forms, resulting in a vocabulary, lay theories, causal explanations, cognitive frames, and prototypical examples (qualitative data). (p. 86)
Ok, I've given all the warnings... so here's the musings and the real stretch -- could some of this work with blog conversations? I know people have discussed that both IM and blogs lie between spoken language and written language. We write something, some idea, and someone responds on their blog or in the comments, and you write something... to eventually come to a shared meaning. We especially tell a lot of stories on blogs which can also convey our understandings of the world. But it's not done real time... hm. Maybe I've stretched too far but in any case, this seems like a good article on focus groups if you're interested in that type of thing :)

P.S. -- I wonder why we didn't have a social constructionist communications prof as one of our presenters in my doctoral seminar on communications. Seems like an obvious and important thing to cover, particularly when the local comms department is publishing fascinating tid bits like this.

* Peter Lunt (1996). Rethinking the focus group in media and communications research. Journal of Communications 42, 79-98.
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

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