What is reality and how do we make sense of it in everyday life? Why do some realities seem more real than others, and what of seemingly contradictory and multiple realities? This book considers reality as we represent, perceive and experience it. It suggests that the realities we take as ‘real’ are the result of real-time, situated practices that draw on and draw together many things - technologies and objects, people, gestures, meanings and media. Examining these practices illuminates reality (or rather our sense of it) as always ‘virtually real’, that is simplified and artfully produced. This examination also shows us how the sense of reality that we make is nonetheless real in its consequences. Making Sense of Reality offers students and educators a guide to analysing social life. It develops a performance-based perspective (‘doing things with’) that highlights the ever-revised dimension of realities and links this perspective to a focus on object-relations and an ecological model of culture-in-action.
Chapter 3: Culturally Figured Reality
Culturally Figured Reality
One of the best-known aphorisms in sociology is the so-called Thomas Theorem:
When men [sic] define situations as real they are real in their consequences. (Thomas and Thomas, 1928: 51–2)
The idea is that social realities (situations) gain status as realities when people believe in them and thus act toward them as if they are real. Sometimes this theorem is compared to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the notion that physical matter behaves differently when it is being observed. (The popular understanding of the uncertainty principle is that particles are ‘disturbed’ by the attempt to measure them – as if they exist but can’t be quantified. There is a more sophisticated interpretation that says what matters here is the relationship between measurement and measured.) So the Thomas Theorem can be understood as a ...