Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What is "social contruction"? Well, take the Iowa caucuses

We often struggle to teach our students what "social construction" actually means.  (For the record, I am with Woolgar and Latour for taking out "social" and just saying "construction.").  Well, here is a Voxsplainer article by Andrew Prokop explaining the outsized importance of the Iowa caucuses that could serve as a great introduction to undergrads on what we STS-types actually mean by social construction. For my money, it makes the a number of points:

  1. "Social construction" doesn't mean that something is not real.  
  2. Socially constructed things take other things for granted. These things, while real enough, tend to be also socially constructed and on and on. 
  3. Socially constructed things can be really hard to change (see point 2).  They require real long-term work to create cultural change, itself a very unpredictable thing