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Schedule for Today. Announcement about Wednesday Match your presentation to revised schedule. Presentation – symbolic interactionism and semiotics. Discussion. Communication Process. Question of Paraffin?. If you asked for paraffin in the United States, what would you get?.

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schedule for today
Schedule for Today
  • Announcement about Wednesday
  • Match your presentation to revised schedule.
  • Presentation – symbolic interactionism and semiotics.
  • Discussion
question of paraffin
Question of Paraffin?
  • If you asked for paraffin in the United States, what would you get?
paraffin or kerosene
Paraffin or Kerosene?
  • If you asked for paraffin anywhere else in the world, what would you get?
what is the issue here
What is the issue here?
  • The symbol (paraffin) means something different to different cultures.
  • To communicate, they will have to develop a shared symbol system.
  • Communication is basically the sharing of symbols that mean approximately the same thing to those communicating.
what does that have to do with symbolic interactionism
What does that have to do with Symbolic Interactionism?
  • Symbolic interactionism is essentially interacting through a shared set of symbols.
  • It also implies that we cannot think without those symbols.
thoughts on language
Thoughts on language

Philo – words as approximations of truth.

motto of renaissance scientists
Motto of Renaissance scientists

“Nullius en verba”

  • Words are signifiers by convention and have no relation to the signified

Ferdinand de Saussere

“The words of our language have meaning only insofar as there exist a public criteria for their correct use.”Ludwig Wittgenstein
key point
Key Point

Language is constructed by humans to create shared meaning. Words mean what they do by convention, not because of truth.


So what does it mean from a philosophical point of view that language is constructed by humans to communicate knowledge?


Would it not follow that the knowledge being transmitted would be affected by the constructed language so it too would be constructed?


What do the words ‘able’ and ‘start’ imply?

  • They imply that there is a place, cognitively speaking, where the person can understand what I am saying and beyond which, he or she cannot.
  • Start also indicates that a journey is going to take place.
essence of the cognitive journey
Essence of the cognitive journey

You will start with what you know, interpret the words based on your past experience for what those words mean, add the new concepts to your existing knowledge and come out at a different point.

key tenet of constructivism
Key Tenet of Constructivism

We actively construct knowledge by blending sensory input, including words, with what we already know based on our past experience.

what do these have in common
What do these have in common?
  • Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
  • Perception is reality.
  • Schema Theory
jean piaget 1896 1980

Jean Piaget 1896-1980

1850 1900 1950 2000


Origin of

The Species


Children seek equilibrium. When faced with new information they either assimilate it into existing schemas or accommodate the information by creating new schemas based on old ones. Either way, they construct reality by blending the old with the new.

not a new concept
Not a new concept
  • One man’s judgment may not be truer than another man’s, but may be better.


  • We can never know the noumenal (real) world, only the phenomenal (perceived) world.


giambattista vico
Giambattista Vico

“Vico was the first modern philosopher to discover in his own mind, and in the European past, all human destiny. ‘We can know nothing’ he said, ‘that we have not made.’”

William Yeats in On the Boiler

evolution and constructivism
Evolution and Constructivism

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution provided a different lens with which to view cognition.

  • If you can’t see objective reality, what is cognition for?
  • To order your experiential world in such a way as to increase your chances of survival.
  • Why do we have the senses we do?
  • Because they allow us to gather information from our environment that allows us to survive – NOT because they allow us to know an objective reality.
key point28
Key Point

Everybody makes theories and hypotheses about the world and uses those beliefs to create plans of action because we have to have an ordered experiential world to survive.

summary evolution and constructivism
Summary: Evolution and Constructivism

Likely presence of cognition and motivation for learning was not to find an objective reality but to create an ordered experiential world that increased our chances of survival.

continuum of constructivism
Continuum of Constructivism



Tenets #1 & #2 #3



basic tenets of constructivism
Basic tenets of constructivism

1. Knowledge is not passively accumulated, but rather is the result of active cognizing by the individual.

2. Cognition is an adaptive process that functions to make an individual’s behavior more viable given a particular environment.

cognitive constructivism
Cognitive Constructivism

Accepts the two basic tenets, but believes you can still construct knowledge that reflects an objective reality.

social and radical constructivists
Social and Radical Constructivists

Accept first two tenets.

3. Cognition organizes and makes sense of one’s experience, and is not a process to render an accurate representation of reality.

whatever worldview we construct we do not have any means to validate it sextus empiricus c 200 ce
Whatever worldview we construct, we do not have any means to validate it. Sextus Empiricus c. 200 CE
objectivity is the delusion that observations can be made without an observer heinz von foerster
“Objectivity is the delusion that observations can be made without an observer.”Heinz von Foerster
social constructivists
Social Constructivists

4.Knowing has roots both in biological/neurological construction and in social, cultural and language-based interactions.

  • Lev Vygotsky
  • George Herbert Mead
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
lev vygotsky 1896 1934

Lev Vygotsky 1896-1934

1850 1900 1950 2000


Origin of

The Species

vygotsky s stance
Vygotsky’s stance
  • You don’t learn to become social; you become social to learn.
  • Learn from the outside in.
george herbert mead 1863 1931

George Herbert Mead 1863-1931

1850 1900 1950 2000


Origin of

The Species

mead s stance
Mead’s stance

There is not subjective reality or objective reality, only inter-subjective reality.

symbolic interactionism
Symbolic Interactionism
  • Humans act toward people and things based on meanings they assign to those people and things.
  • Meaning arises out of social interaction that people have with each other in the exchange of symbols.
  • An individual’s interpretation of symbols is modified by their own thought process.
key points
Key points
  • We can’t think reflexively before we have symbols to think with.
  • Language is the software that activates the mind, so we need to become social to learn.
mead s great contribution
Mead’s great contribution
  • Idea that we can put ourselves in the role of others, which is responsible for the development of self-concept and reflexive thought.
  • Self is a function of language. Without language, we have no self-concept.
ludwig wittgenstein 1889 1951

Ludwig Wittgenstein1889-1951

1850 1900 1950 2000


Origin of

The Species

  • We can’t know anything outside of language – it is all we have to think with.
fritz maulthner
Fritz Maulthner

Language is an instrument designed to satisfy a multiplicity of human needs. As such, it is an imperfect tool for exploring and depicting reality.


“Truth is not to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction.”Mikhail Bakhtin

key question
Key Question

How would a human develop cognitively without language?

Develop a personal symbol system that would allow them to think at a reasonably high level.

what does work of einstein and mozart suggest
What does work of Einstein and Mozart Suggest?

That perhaps knowledge is translated into language rather than being defined by it.

baggage of language
Baggage of Language

An individual’s subjective reality is overlain by society’s collective subjective reality.

Emile Durkheim

what about self image and reflexive thought
What about self-image and reflexive thought?

I believe you would develop some type of self-image based on the language of gestures used by other biological organisms.

ernst von glasersfeld 1917

Ernst von Glasersfeld1917-

1850 1900 1950 2000


Origin of

The Species

an epiphany
An epiphany!

Understanding another language is not just about learning the vocabulary, syntax and grammar. It required a different way of thinking about things – a different way of seeing, feeling and experiencing the world.

sapir whorf hypothesis
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

How people see and think about the world is to a large extent shaped by their language, which is shaped by their environment.

Also known as linguistic relativity.

“In order to discover whether a picture is true or false, we must compare it with reality.”Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1933
radical constructivism
Radical Constructivism
  • Accepts the first three tenets – active construction, cognition as an adaptive tool and subjective realities.
  • Does not deny the existence of an objective reality.
  • Plays down the importance of social influence.
continuum of constructivism62
Continuum of Constructivism


Cognitive Symbolic

Tenets #1 & #2 #3



symbolic constructivism
Symbolic Constructivism

We use symbols to actively construct our schemas, whether those symbols are personal or shared.

how does that relate
How does that relate?
  • We interact with symbols – both language and others – to construct a shared reality.
  • It combines semiotics – the use of symbols – and symbolic interactionism – the sharing of symbols.
how does that affect communication
How does that affect communication?
  • You must find/create a shared set of symbols in order to communicate.
  • What you communicate will never be exactly what you are envisioning because of the unique background of others.
  • The use of non-verbal symbols
  • Tying a yellow ribbon around a tree
  • Professional wrestling
  • Signifier (image)
  • Signified (concept)
  • Sign (signifier plus the sign = schema or meaning)
signs in other cultures
Signs in other cultures
  • What are some signs unique to your culture that serve in a communicative capacity?
  • What are some experiences where you have misinterpreted signs here?
how does semiotics affect us
How does semiotics affect us?
  • Think about the ELM – peripheral route. We use symbols to give us clues. Make sure you give the right symbols.
everything sends a message

Everything sends a message

Make sure all symbols are consistent