Social Construction of Self: Observational Essay
Social constructionists believe that a great deal, if not all, of our lived experience and the world we inhabit is socially constructed (Hacking, 1999). Social constructionism is a postmodern theory suggesting that there are no universal truths because people continually construct knowledge based on their individual and cultural experiences (Burton, Westen, & Kowalski, 2009). In their daily life, a person makes sense of the world around them, gives it meaning and interacts on the basis of these meanings (Jorgensen, 1989). More specifically, they construct their own and each others identities through their everyday encounters in social interaction (Burr, 2006). This assignment required me to reflect on how identity is being constructed in a particular social setting, through the method of participant observation.
The methodology of participant observation provides direct observational access to the individuals world of meaning, and reveals the meaning people use to make sense of their daily lives (Jorgensen, 1989). This essay will allow me to consider how social constructionist ideas can be used to explain what I have observed. The participant observation took place in a busy doctor’s waiting room in the south-eastern suburb of Caulfield between 11am and 11:45am on a Monday morning. The waiting room was already quite busy when I arrived and I selectively chose a seat where I could observe the group members but where I could still assimilate into the group. I was aware that from a social constructionist view, society constructs codes of behaviour or unwritten rules to follow when in a group environment that allows us to make sense of the world (Hechter & Opp, 2001). As I sat down I noticed the first unwritten code. Although the people in the waiting room comprised a range of ages, ethnicities, socio-economic levels and professions, and even though there were no clear rule guiding signs on the walls, I noticed that everyone including myself were evenly spread out so that there was at least one seat between each person. This