Literature Review
Viewing Life Through A Social Constructionist Lens
The website mission statement for the Taos and Tilburg Ph.D. program, with the following
orienting principles and relational “thoughts” from Kenneth J. Gergen, resonated with my
values. One such idea addresses the power of relationships to literally construct our world,
“Constructionist theory and practice locates the source of meaning, value and action in the
relational connection among people. It is through relational processes that we create the
world in which we most want to live and work” (http://www.taosinstitute.net/theoretical-
background). Although social construction encompasses a broad range of ways we locate
value and meaning within a social context, I found the relational lens to be the primary
focus that worked best with this project. Here I positioned myself to reveal not only our
interdependent connectedness, but also extended my parameters to include the
importance of how our conversations create meaning and make a difference. These
relational or social constructionist threads were woven throughout the entire dissertation
along with the inclusion of many participant perspectives to showcase how we have the
capacity to entertain multiple “truths.”
We Make Meaning Through Our Relational Connections
As “relational beings,” we create meaning from our every day encounters and
conversations (Gergen, 2009; Burr, 1995). We are socially constructed as we intersect with
different cultures, meet neighbors embodying different beliefs and practices, and sample
new experiences that shape and change our attitudes and ideas. What we accept as
reality is very fluid as we bump against new people and even fictitious characters from
television shows, plays, or books as they manage to infiltrate our lives and change
attitudes. Popular television shows from Modern Family to The New Normal represent a
shift in thinking about what constitutes being a “regular” family. The socially constructed
reconfiguration of what is a “regular job” is also happening on the work front and this is
explored in the chapter “This Is A Real Job.”
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