Constructed Realities

Lincoln & Guba (1985) Naturalistic Inquiry: Sage Publications.


Article Summary


A Philosophical View of Reality Individual realities often overlap one another, simply because many of them are an effort to deal with the same putative phenomenon, but they differ in the meanings that are attached to the phenomenon and in the sense making in which each actor engages in order to keep his or her world whole and seamless. Four levels of reality are discussed by Lincoln & Guba; objective, perceived, constructed and created. The authors postulate that the construction of realities must depend on some form of consensual language. Perspective, or multiple realities . Related to Kelly’s emphasis on individual construction of individual realities, and upon the structure of the construct systems that individuals evolve for themselves, in order that meaning might be imposed on individual experiences.

I would have to most closely align myself with the constructed level of reality , which suggests that if there is a reality, we can never know it, and no amount of inquiry can produce convergence on it. There are an infinite number of constructions that might be made and hence there are multiple realities. A constructed reality is incomplete or erroneous to some degree. A constructed reality is often related to, and equally often inseparable from, tangible entitie(s).

The idea of a consensus theory had impact for me as a researcher and the implications for my own research. The idea that even scientific laws are but an agreed upon reality until they are disproven or rejected by current/present research seems to open up the possibilities for further inquiry, rather than paying homage to finite ideas. Consensus theory also sheds light on the concepts of common sense, rules of thumb, and guidelines, which are another form of cultural or shared reality.

I believe that the evidence from much of what we research, both qualitatively and quantitatively, depends upon the acceptance by the community, or consensus theory. For example, there are many tested and approved teaching strategies for classroom teaching, and individual teachers select and incorporate that model which most closely matches their own teaching reality  despite, or as a result of, research on effectiveness. The fact that we (society) have not found the definitive teaching strategy, despite many studies on teaching and learning, attests to the state of multiple realities in effective classroom teaching.

Lincoln & Guba's article brought to mind the Apple Macintosh Interface Design Guidelines, which can be considered a constructed reality. Apple Designers promote a shared design perspective based on a concept of the user and how one should interact with computers.


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