Situation: unfocused, unorganized people with related problems.
Goal: organized group creating a solution.
- No rules, just results
- Networks of agents, organizing
- No laws of social behavior
- Liberals and fundamentalists
- Labeling, reifying, self-organizing
- Constructivism and constructionism
Some contend you can teach someone how to facilitate groups, much like you teach someone to play a guitar. Just show them the correct actions and they’ll be able to do it.
At it’s heart, this approach assumes that a particular set of actions with groups will produce a particular set of results.
Certainly this traditional scientific assumption has resulted in successful manipulation of nature in many areas, but there sure hasn’t been a lot of success with such mechanistic approaches with groups.
Some say it’s because we haven’t tried hard enough. “It’s just complex, we need more computing power.” That may be true, but this kind of self-perpetuating assumption can never be disproven. No matter how many failures we have applying this assumption, analysts can always say: “Give us more computing power and we’ll solve it.”
We contend it’s time to say this approach has failed. We need to take a fresh approach. Try some new assumptions. See if they work better.
Our assumption is that there are few, if any, social laws. Every group develops independently. Each group develops its rules and mores–that’s as close as we get to social laws.
So the only way to learn how to facilitate groups is to go out and do it. Then come together to reflect on what’s working and what’s not. Then go out and do it some more.
The similarities in spoken and unspoken languages between groups from similar backgrounds will enable facilitators working with such groups to be able to learn from each other’s experiences. This is especially true when the groups are similar in many ways but different in crucial ways. Then facilitators won’t be confused about what is or is not possible for their groups.
The laws are the laws we collectively insist upon.
This is the project we have embarked upon:
Help agents develop their skills in facilitating groups by creating action-reflection cycles with networks of agents.
Some lawyers and other amoral types, unfortunately, love to construe a belief in the construction of social reality as supporting relativism. Their interpretation: there are no laws, except the laws they (and sometimes, we) make up. However, believing in the construction of social reality means that we will construct a reality which will have a large or small group of laws which we insist on following.
We construct our social reality. Constructing social reality is what started our brain to constructing other stuff: tools, buildings, highways.(Contact us for references.)
We got the knack of constructing social relations as a way of bypassing rigid social hierarchies.
The smart little guy could reproduce while the big brute didn’t–by constructing social groups; spinning a web around a group who is loyal and altruistic to their group.
This “loyalty-altruism complex” is always fighting against the old selfish nature. It’s often the elephant in the living room that’s never talked about.
But it’s always there. We have to recognize it is and not pretend differently.
It a pretty safe assumption that man’s social behavior is built on a foundation of nature. Selfishness and urge to reproduce are the common denominator in nature.
Some people never escape those two basic urges.
These are the basic biological imperatives–the laws which social behavior must follow. The rest we must construct.
Yet there are strong tendencies: maternal instinct in women (and a typically weaker paternal instinct in men) is one. But these tendencies can be, and often are, overriden.
Liberals are often the worst at being blind to the selfish side of man. They are like fundamentalists in trying to separate man from nature and in believing that we there are a set of social laws which man follows. Liberal and fundamentalists both are wedded to a set of beliefs and assumptions about the nature of man which are totally different.
But behind these assumptions, they share a common, more basic assumption: that there is one right answer to how men should and do behave.
If two people accept this assumption, they are bound to run into conflict as their life experiences lead them to construct different theories about why men behave as they do.
Alternative assumption: We construct all the rules of social behavior as we live. They always change with every generation
We can construct them as we wish. So we have no argument with the liberals or fundamentalists. We seek to bring them together to construct a better social reality.
Let’s explore how the theorists look at this.
What is Constructivism?
* Mind is real. Mental events are worthy of study.
* Knowledge resides in the mind.
* Knowledge is dynamic.
* Meaning is constructed.
* Reflection/abstraction is critical to expert performance and to becoming an expert.
* Learning includes constructing representations.
* Teaching is negotiating construction of meaning.
* Thinking and perception are inseparable.
* Problem solving is central to cognition.
What is Constructionism?
Constructivism is a little too anti-realistic for some.
They prefer constructionism.
Both emerged as the deconstructionists tried to develop their own world view. Constructionism or constructivism are sometimes vociferously distinguished but not in any consistent way. (See that last link for a discussion of ‘Positivism’ today a term that functions like Nazism – it is mainly a term of dislike, with little specific content.)
Here’s how one traditional psychologist describes his route to constructionism
In contrast to many personality theorists, I was also impressed by what seemed to me a profound liability in self-conception.
We don’t seem to have a single, stable conception of ourselves, it seemed to me, but to have the capacity for infinite fluctuation.
Further, to extend George Herbert Mead’s insights, these fluctuations seem directly connected to others’ behavior toward us. As I reasoned, then, an individual’s self-esteem can be shaped from moment to moment by others’ expressions of esteem for them.
To summarize, the message of social psychology inherent in the prevailing Zeitgeist was that empirical research can furnish an unbiased and systematic description and explanation of social behavior, that the accuracy and generality of these theoretical accounts are subject to continuous improvement through research, and that there is nothing so practical for society as an accurate, empirically supported theory. In effect, scientists can offer the society enormous riches in terms of principles of human interaction, and with these principles the society can improve itself. With respect to our understanding of selves, progress in knowledge is interminable.
However, social psychology is not interested in exterior ephemera. Its task is to lay bear the psychological bases of these patterns – how it is that basic processes of cognition, motivation, prejudice, and the like function in human organisms. These processes are not unstable; they are inherent in human nature. Only their expressions are mutable.
Final conclusion of constructionism:
Any theory of social interaction does not transparently reveal the character of people’s subjective worlds or mental processes; however, once psychologists bring a given theory to bear, they locate “internal events” in its terms. These theories have no basis in fact; any facts about the mind used in their support would have necessitated the use of such theories. In effect, the psychological world so dear to the heart of many social psychologists is a social construction, and the findings used to justify statements about this world are only valid insofar as one remains within the theoretical (and metatheoretical) paradigms of the field. Research findings don’t have any meaning until they are interpreted, and these interpretations are not demanded by the findings themselves. They result from a process of negotiating meaning within the community.
These comments are slightly modified from those of Kenneth Gergen (see the link above for example) well-known social psychologist from Swarthmore College.