Monday, June 13, 2011

Social Construction & Wikipedia

I'm still wading through Disinventing and Reconstituting Languages, trying to grapple with the authors' argument for using the term "invention" to describe the social construction of language. It's probably that I just don't have the theoretical background but I'm still not convinced it makes a big difference. On a related note, I also came across the Wikipedia page for "the Tinkerbell Effect" which purports to refer to "things that only exist because people believe in them." The (unreferenced) list includes items like private property, the monetary system, authority, and compulsory education. Aside from being one of many examples showing just how sloppy and nonspecific Wikipedia often is, the implication is clear: things that exist because they are discourses sustained by beliefs, social actions, and language, somehow are not real. Or to put it even more extremely: ideas don't exist.

Following this idea into broader cultural currents which seem to value a certain perception of the 'hard sciences' and material reality as ultimate would be a big detour for this blog, and has been too big a detour for my mind (er, I mean, "brain"), so we'll leave it at that.

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