Constructed Reality

12 Mar

My only complaint about WordPress is that I can’t track how people are finding this site.  I can see what phrase they searched and ended up here, but that is the extent of the info.

Over on the old site, which is still running, my sitemeter has recently been active with people searching for information on “constructed reality”  – more specifically, movies, tv shows, and other media containing examples of constructed reality.  Several of these searches have come from Canadian school districts so I figured I’d post this to help, in case they find their way to this site again.


The idea of constructed social reality has grown out of several communication theories.  The first thing I was taught in my Communication Theory class at the U was,

Communication is a symbolic/relational process whereby social reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed.

The symbolic process is:

  1. Rule-governed, interpretive activity.
  2. Process of assigning meaning and intention to the acts of others.

Social Reality is:

  1. Sum total of communicative acts within it.
  2. Persons both produce and are shaped by their communicative activity.

There are certain assumptions:

  1. Symbolic production of reality
  2. Reality is not given but supplied
  3. Symbolic maintenance (repair and transformation) of reality

The basic idea is that human language is symbolic.  Humans have the cognitive capacity to take a symbol and assign meaning to it.  That symbol holds no inherent value outside of the meaning assigned to it.

Example:  One of my favorite professors, Norm Elliott, loved using this example:

  • Red grapes make the best wine.
  • He pulled a red hot poker out of the fire.
  • I like my steaks red in the middle.
  • She’s a tall woman with red hair.
  • When Elliott noticed his fly was open during lecture, his face turned red.

The word “red” is made up of three symbols, “r”, “e”, “d,” and together they form another symbol, the word “red.”  But the word “red” has no inherent value until we assign it meaning, and as you can see in the above example, the word “red” can mean at least five different things, or express five different thoughts.

So it is with the rest of our world.  Yes, there is physical reality but even our understanding of physical reality is symbolic.  A rainstorm is a physical reality.  If it’s raining, it’s raining.  Though the meaning may differ between people – a ruined day for a hiker or water for the farmer’s crops.

The easiest theory to study would be George Herbert Mead’s Symbolic Interactionism.  Mead’s main theory is that we interact with objects based on the meaning that we’ve assigned to them.  This applies to objects – guns for example – and people – homosexuals; race relations.  What meaning(s) has your life experience created for a specific person/object?

I highly recommend A First Look at Communication Theory, by Em Griffin, or go to his website.


As for media containing constructed reality, all media contains constructed reality.  A great film on the subject is “Ordinary People.”

You can easily take this basic idea and quickly expand it.  Are you in favor of or against Obamacare?  Why or why not?  What experiences have shaped your world view on the subject?  Are you willing to understand the other side (I didn’t say agree with it)?  What is your opinion on gun-owner rights and why?  Are you a hoplophobe and if so, why?


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