Weltanschauungs or world perceptions

I really need to move on to my data collection. The reading will continue but I must start the pilot interviews. My action research methodology is participatory and I need these conversations to help construct the research process.

It’s been a struggle to locate myself. My worldview is a bit blurred. I hold multiple beliefs and don’t want to lie. But a phd has to have one of these Weltanschauungs or perceptions of the world so I’ve settled for a constructivist ontology – an interpretative rather than a positivist approach to the question of what constitutes social reality. I agree with Berger and Luckman’s 1967 treatise on the sociology of knowledge:  the Social Construction of Reality suggests social reality is produced and can be perceived in multiple ways. This applies to my epistemic position on the nature of knowledge which I would suggest is also socially constructed. How we understand and explain what we know or come to know rarely happens in isolation. It is more often a mediated process requiring communication and reinforcement (see Vygotsky’s Sociohistorical Learning Theory or Sociocultural theory and Zone of Proximal Development).

It terms of understanding the control mechanisms which shape social reality, I find Foucault useful for his work on coercive power structures in particular its historical origins and diffuse, embodied and thereby constructed nature. It’s a much debated approach but remains valuable. Foucault described power as discursive and flexible saying ‘We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it ‘excludes’, it ‘represses’, it ‘censors’, it ‘abstracts’, it ‘masks’, it ‘conceals’.  In fact power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth.  The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production’ (Foucault 1991: 194).

A taxonomy of world views is nothing new but it’s helpful to compare the key differences between positivist and interpretivist world views, and everyone constructs or plagiarises one. I made this myself but its almost impossible to be original.

Natural science Social science
positivist interpretivist
objective subjective
value free Value laden
ways of seeing are built on universal principles and facts Ways of seeing are personal and culturally/historically situated
The world can be known, measured and explained The world is constructed from social agency

So far this post hardly does credit to the amount of reading I’ve done but at least it locates me on the subjective side. Neither does it reflect the impact of the internet on our processes of knowing and understanding – which in themselves may need to be re-defined. I wonder what Vygotsky would say. A theory of sociovirtual learning?

Also, I haven’t said anything about disempowerment, marginalisation or discrimination.  I haven’t mentioned technology. I need a paradigm of inquiry which critiques the role of technology in higher education through examination of the social relations between staff and their tools for virtual learning.  Something which involves the agency of individuals to subvert the massification of education and resist an uncritical acceptance of the automation of teaching. The P word will be in there somewhere – sshhhh….it’s p for postmodern.

So the next step is to get critical.

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