Social Construction of Reality – Internalization – Berger & Luckmann

Berger, Peter L., Thomas Luckmann, and Texas Tech University. Institute for Studies in Pragmaticism. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Anchor Book. New York: Doubleday, 1967.

Socialization: [T]he comprehensive and consistent induction of an individual into the objective world of a society or a sector of it” (130).

Having discussed in the last post the three moments of externalization, objectivation, and internalization, I am now focusing the discussion into a post specifically on the topic of internalization, which is the “moment” most relevant to my study.

The Purpose of Internalization
As noted in the last post, internalization is the third of the three moments and the one “by which the objectivated social world is retrojected into consciousness in the course of socialization)” (61). Essentially, this is the point at which the individual, having experienced the objectivated event(s) within the institutionalized social world, immediately interprets it and finds personal meaning. “More precisely, internalization… is the basis, first, for an understanding of one’s fellowman and, second, for the apprehension of the world as a meaningful and social reality” (130).

As a basis for understanding the fellowman, internalization is carried out by experiencing the societal world and, upon gaining an understanding of it, one also gains some understanding of the individuals who inhabit or operate within it and perhaps of those who created it. Applied to the smaller and specific example of the Online Video Conversation (OVC), the new experiencer or initiate becomes familiar with social setting and institution that is the OVC and begins to understand how to operate physically within the environment, that is how to use the tools that allow one to maneuver and function using this method. One also gains an understanding of how to operate socially within the environment, that is how to communicate with other individuals within this realm, including the sort of language used, the topics discussed, the settings in which people present their videos, etc. However, one cannot merely enter into a rigid setting and move through it without having any effect within the environment, nor does an understanding happen solely by one individual, but rather by also gaining some level of understanding of the various subjective perspectives of those involved who then contribute back to the setting. Thus begins ‘the apprehension of the world as a meaningful and social reality.’

“This apprehension does not result from autonomous creations of meaning by isolated individuals, but begins with the individual ‘taking over’ the world in which others already live. To be sure, the ‘taking over’ is in itself, in a sense, an original process for every human organism, and the world, once ‘taken over,’ may be creatively modified or (less likely) even re-created. In any case, in the complex form of internalization, I not only ‘understand’ the other’s momentary subjective process, I ‘understand’ the world in which he lives, and that world becomes my own” (130).

Again considering the OVC in the AOC setting as “the world,” the student (new user) upon gaining some level of understanding of the setting, begins to contribute to the world (ongoing conversation), gains some internal confidence and external presence, and “takes over” the objective understanding of the environment, thus forming his or her subjective understanding of it. In doing so, the student also modifies the environment to some extent and shapes the understanding of the other participants. “Only when he has achieved this degree of internalization is an individual a member of society” (130).

OVC as Secondary Socialization
“Secondary socialization is the internalization of institutional or institution-based ‘sub-worlds’” (138).

“Primary socialization is the first socialization an individual undergoes in childhood, through which he becomes a member of society. Secondary socialization is any subsequent process that inducts an already socialized individual into sectors of the objective world of his society” (130). Therefore, all the students begin college have gone through primary socialization long before. The introduction to and induction into the OVC setting is the exposure to a new sector of the objective world, thus constituting secondary socialization.

“The dialectic, which is present each moment the individual identifies with his significant others, is, as it were, the particularization in individual life of the general dialectic of society. … [T]he individual not only takes on the roles and attitudes of others, but in the same process takes on their world” (132).

To follow Berger and Luckmann’s perspective, the student becomes socialized through the dialogues that occur with the OVC, through his or her understanding, and through the other participants’ realization of the individual. In the process of this socialization, the student begins to identify with the other OVC participants: as students of this class, as students of this college, as participants in the OVC, as residents of this community, etc. The student also begins to take on certain roles and attitudes of the others.

The authors state that secondary socialization I s about the acquisition of role-specific knowledge with the roles being rooted in the division of labor (138). While the analogy breaks a bit here in that the application of the idea of secondary socialization to the OVC in the AOC is not a discussion of a sector of an entire society but rather a sector of a larger setting that can be seen as the university or of higher education (either one easily being seen as an institution). Additionally, while it is not a workplace setting, one which might lend itself more to a discussion of the division of labor, as a classroom setting, there are tasks involved, as well as specific group work, which does require distribution of tasks and labor.

They also note that the “The ‘subworlds’ internalized in secondary socialization are generally partial realities in contrast to the ‘baseworld’ acquired in primary socialization” (138). Therefore, the OVC is a subworld of a larger institution with which one may have been familiarized in childhood. In application particular to my study, that would likely be a socialization to the institution of education, which is in itself, a subworld of a specific society.

In this educational setting, while I am the teacher and in most views of the classroom setting a leader or director, my persona, that is who is instructing the course, is of little consequence. “[Teachers] are institutional functionaries with the formal assignment of transmitting specific knowledge” (142). In other words, any other instructor could teach the class and convey that information. Of course different instructors might impart the knowledge quite differently, but so long as it is the same knowledge, it matters little for the purposes of socialization who that instructor is; they are interchangeable.

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