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An Analysis of Participatory Communication for Development: A Social Construction Perspective
Unformatted Document Text:  Participatory Communication for Development 11 not deny the existence of a tangible reality, but they insist that “meaning is not discovered, [it is] constructed. Meaning does not inhere in the object, merely waiting for someone to come upon it” (Crotty, 1998, p. 42). Social constructionists argue that such meaning is “constructed, sustained and reproduced through social life” (p. 55). This notion of sociality is essential to social construction, and it underscores the central importance of communication to reality construction. That is, if it is through social interaction that we create and give meaning to our worlds, then “when we communicate, we are not just talking about the world, we are literally participating in the creation of the social universe” (Pearce, 1995, p. 75). Social construction is an appropriate perspective from which to examine theories of social change, such as PCD, for it provides a space for conceptions of communication as transformatory. This way of looking at the world demands recognition of the “power of language to make new and different things possible” (Gergen, 1999, p. 18). Although social construction perspectives assume that reality is constructed in communication, most theorists do not carefully examine the details of the processes through which meanings are constructed. In order to fully account for the place of communication in reality construction, we must look at interaction in terms of co-construction. A Co-construction Model for Communication In examining the communication processes central to social construction, a co-construction perspective presents “communication as a phenomenon that emerges in dynamic inter-action” (Arundale, 1999, p. 126). Communication is interactional in that each participant’s current interpretations and contributions are linked to their own prior interpretations and contributions, and to the contributions of others. Each participant’s interpretations and contributions are also linked to expectations for their own and the other’s future interpretations. Communication is dynamic in that participants’ interpretations and contributions are continually developing and changing in concert with one another. One’s response is interdependent with the other’s contribution, and vice versa, so that

Authors: Dare, Alexa.
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Participatory Communication for Development 11
not deny the existence of a tangible reality, but they insist that “meaning is not discovered, [it is]
constructed. Meaning does not inhere in the object, merely waiting for someone to come upon it”
(Crotty, 1998, p. 42). Social constructionists argue that such meaning is “constructed, sustained and
reproduced through social life” (p. 55).
This notion of sociality is essential to social construction, and it underscores the central
importance of communication to reality construction. That is, if it is through social interaction that we
create and give meaning to our worlds, then “when we communicate, we are not just talking about the
world, we are literally participating in the creation of the social universe” (Pearce, 1995, p. 75). Social
construction is an appropriate perspective from which to examine theories of social change, such as
PCD, for it provides a space for conceptions of communication as transformatory. This way of looking
at the world demands recognition of the “power of language to make new and different things possible”
(Gergen, 1999, p. 18). Although social construction perspectives assume that reality is constructed in
communication, most theorists do not carefully examine the details of the processes through which
meanings are constructed. In order to fully account for the place of communication in reality
construction, we must look at interaction in terms of co-construction.
A Co-construction Model for Communication
In examining the communication processes central to social construction, a co-construction
perspective presents “communication as a phenomenon that emerges in dynamic inter-action”
(Arundale, 1999, p. 126). Communication is interactional in that each participant’s current
interpretations and contributions are linked to their own prior interpretations and contributions, and to
the contributions of others. Each participant’s interpretations and contributions are also linked to
expectations for their own and the other’s future interpretations. Communication is dynamic in that
participants’ interpretations and contributions are continually developing and changing in concert with
one another. One’s response is interdependent with the other’s contribution, and vice versa, so that


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