Thursday, October 16, 2014

A thought about the social construction of the past.

Homo sapiens is a social species. We are made to live in company with others. Since the invention of language, people have been explaining things to each other. Hunter gatherers would sit around a fire at night and tell stories. The way we understand the world is by constructing that understanding together -- socially.

Journalists construct their understanding attending to other journalists and interacting with the people they are reporting. They communicate their understanding under the constraints of the media, under editorial guidance, and according to the ethics of their profession.

Artists construct their understanding attending to journalists, to other artists and to the people around them. They too communicate their understanding through their work, under the constraints imposed by getting those works to the public/

Historians construct their understanding of the past attending to other historians, to the documented record of the past, and by interaction with people who lived that history when that is possible. They too seek to construct their understanding of the past according to a code of ethics. They communicate their views to other historians, especially in written form; it is the community of professional historians that socially constructs its understanding of the past, based on these writings. Sometimes they communicate that understanding to the public directly, and sometimes via intermediaries, again subject to the constraints involved in that communication to the public.

We the public construct our understanding of the past depending on journalists, artists, and historians, but also exchanging stories among ourselves.

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