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Technological Constructions of Reality: An Ontological Perspective
Unformatted Document Text:  Running Head: TECHNOLOGICAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY operate in ways that promote apathy, cynicism, and quiescence rather than active citizenship and participation” (p. 391). Because media messages set the agenda for what is considered newsworthy in society and frame news according to their personal agendas, viewers are left with little freedom to construct their realities from these messages that would leave them with positive feelings toward democracy. However, Gamson et al. (1992) also determined that “the underdetermined nature of media discourse allows plenty of room for challengers such as social movements to offer competing constructions of reality and to find support for them from readers whose daily lives may lead them to construct meaning in ways that go beyond media imagery” (p. 391). In other words, although mass media have a large influence on the construction of viewers’ realities new media offers an alternative venue for dissenting voices to be heard and responded to in a way that opens the influence of media on social constructionism to broader and more diverse views. Another recent study conducted by Susan Barnes (2000) examined the creation of interactive computer systems and its effect on users’ construction of reality. In this study Barnes focused on Douglas Engelbart’s advanced technology of interactive computer systems in which computers perform as an auxiliary to human communication and interaction in order to be able to manipulate symbols in a manner similar to human beings. According to Barnes (2000): Bardini (1997) contends that this aspect of Engelbart's vision for interactive computing is based on the assumption that language is more than symbolic - it is a social construction. By describing Engelbart's work in this context, Bardini clearly separates Engelbart from the deterministic or symptomatic views because his symbiotic view of humans and computers is dynamic rather than linear. Thus, his design methodology more closely resembles a social constructionist view. (p. 360) Barnes determined that although Engelbart’s technology was designed based on technological determinist values it actually ended up aligning more with social constructionist views to build upon the interaction between technology and agent. In other words, the technology was designed 6

Authors: Vincent, Cindy.
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Running Head: TECHNOLOGICAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY
operate in ways that promote apathy, cynicism, and quiescence rather than active citizenship and 
participation” (p. 391).  Because media messages set the agenda for what is considered 
newsworthy in society and frame news according to their personal agendas, viewers are left with 
little freedom to construct their realities from these messages that would leave them with positive 
feelings toward democracy.  However, Gamson et al. (1992) also determined that “the 
underdetermined nature of media discourse allows plenty of room for challengers such as social 
movements to offer competing constructions of reality and to find support for them from readers 
whose daily lives may lead them to construct meaning in ways that go beyond media imagery” 
(p. 391).  In other words, although mass media have a large influence on the construction of 
viewers’ realities new media offers an alternative venue for dissenting voices to be heard and 
responded to in a way that opens the influence of media on social constructionism to broader and 
more diverse views.
Another recent study conducted by Susan Barnes (2000) examined the creation of 
interactive computer systems and its effect on users’ construction of reality.  In this study Barnes 
focused on Douglas Engelbart’s advanced technology of interactive computer systems in which 
computers perform as an auxiliary to human communication and interaction in order to be able to 
manipulate symbols in a manner similar to human beings. According to Barnes (2000):
Bardini (1997) contends that this aspect of Engelbart's vision for interactive computing is 
based on the assumption that language is more than symbolic - it is a social construction. 
By describing Engelbart's work in this context, Bardini clearly separates Engelbart from 
the deterministic or symptomatic views because his symbiotic view of humans and 
computers is dynamic rather than linear. Thus, his design methodology more closely 
resembles a social constructionist view. (p. 360)
Barnes determined that although Engelbart’s technology was designed based on technological 
determinist values it actually ended up aligning more with social constructionist views to build 
upon the interaction between technology and agent.  In other words, the technology was designed 
6


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