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An Analysis of Participatory Communication for Development: A Social Construction Perspective
Unformatted Document Text:  Participatory Communication for Development 21 discussion of PAR, Fals-Borda explains that it is only through legitimation of “people’s science” that people are able to truly participate. Servaes and Arnst (1999) assert that “indigenous knowledge is inherently valid . . . [thus] this knowledge is the most valid place from which to begin” (p. 113). PCD, influenced by PAR and Paulo Freire, considers people as experts in their own realities, and that with the appropriate catalyst they are capable of changing their oppressive situations. Rahman (1991) provides one of the most detailed treatments of indigenous knowledge and its role in participation in his discussion of the theoretical standpoint of PAR. Specifically, he questions the (positivist) argument that scientific knowledge is objective, and he echoes the position of social constructionists when he reminds that “the scientific character or objectivity of knowledge rests on its social verifiability, and this depends on consensus as the method of verification” (p. 15). This argument is the foundation for Rahman’s assertion that people can “choose or devise their own verification system to generate scientific knowledge in their own right” (p. 15). The purpose of this legitimation of people’s knowledge is to provide the option for people to use their own knowledge (as well as any other knowledge system they deem worthwhile) in the process of creating solutions for their particular experiences of oppression. Rahman’s philosophy of knowledge is consistent with a social construction perspective on knowledge, but it is important to examine more carefully how a social construction perspective informs an understanding of knowledge, and to compare this understanding with the PCD perspective on local knowledge. Because social construction assumes that all meaning is created in interaction, then knowledge also exists only in interaction. That is to say, the notion that a book or an “expert” contains knowledge which can be transferred to other individuals is false. This image of knowledge transfer is consistent with the encoding/decoding model of communication. As has already been elaborated, this model is not consistent with the social construction perspective, for it treats communication as an individual event and assumes that meaning is transferred, via a shared code system, from a sender to a

Authors: Dare, Alexa.
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Participatory Communication for Development 21
discussion of PAR, Fals-Borda explains that it is only through legitimation of “people’s science” that
people are able to truly participate. Servaes and Arnst (1999) assert that “indigenous knowledge is
inherently valid . . . [thus] this knowledge is the most valid place from which to begin” (p. 113).
PCD, influenced by PAR and Paulo Freire, considers people as experts in their own realities, and that
with the appropriate catalyst they are capable of changing their oppressive situations.
Rahman (1991) provides one of the most detailed treatments of indigenous knowledge and its
role in participation in his discussion of the theoretical standpoint of PAR. Specifically, he questions
the (positivist) argument that scientific knowledge is objective, and he echoes the position of social
constructionists when he reminds that “the scientific character or objectivity of knowledge rests on its
social verifiability, and this depends on consensus as the method of verification” (p. 15). This
argument is the foundation for Rahman’s assertion that people can “choose or devise their own
verification system to generate scientific knowledge in their own right” (p. 15). The purpose of this
legitimation of people’s knowledge is to provide the option for people to use their own knowledge (as
well as any other knowledge system they deem worthwhile) in the process of creating solutions for
their particular experiences of oppression. Rahman’s philosophy of knowledge is consistent with a
social construction perspective on knowledge, but it is important to examine more carefully how a
social construction perspective informs an understanding of knowledge, and to compare this
understanding with the PCD perspective on local knowledge.
Because social construction assumes that all meaning is created in interaction, then knowledge
also exists only in interaction. That is to say, the notion that a book or an “expert” contains
knowledge which can be transferred to other individuals is false. This image of knowledge transfer is
consistent with the encoding/decoding model of communication. As has already been elaborated, this
model is not consistent with the social construction perspective, for it treats communication as an
individual event and assumes that meaning is transferred, via a shared code system, from a sender to a


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