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5.2 From social construction to social constructionism

The notion of social construction, we have argued, is fundamental to a social science approach to the analysis of social problems. However, some authors have developed the notion further into a more focused perspective, which may be called social constructionism. This perspective starts by emphasising one essential feature of human societies – the role of language. In human societies, action is preceded by understanding and intention. We intend our actions to have meaningful outcomes
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5.1 Common sense revisited

It is worth taking a little time to reflect on what we have discovered so far. Starting from ‘what everybody knows’ about a social problem – or what are sometimes called the common-sense understandings – allows us to see a number of things if we apply the scepticism of being a stranger in our own society.

First, there is a question about whether particular issues are commonly understood to be social problems. As we have seen, there are views which say either that poverty
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4.3 Summary

In this section we have tried to sketch some of the main lines of division in social constructions of social issues. The distinction between the natural and the social in constructing the causes that underlie social issues is a profound and recurrent one. A ‘social’ orientation involves the construction of social causes and conditions as the explanations for social issues. However, it is also important to bear in mind that such an orientation will itself be complicated by differences of p
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4.1 Natural/social

In the previous section we looked at the issue of competing explanations of social problems. Here we want to take a rather different approach by starting from one of the major dividing lines between different types of explanation. These dividing lines are ones that recur in the definition, interpretation and explanation of a range of social issues: for example, patterns of inequality between men and women; crime and juvenile delinquency; the persistence of poverty, and so on. Despite the fact
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3.6 Summary

Three explanations of poverty developed by social scientists have been considered. The first sees poverty as natural or inevitable, the second focuses on the behaviour of poor people, while the third analyses poverty as the result of economic or political processes. Considering these explanations makes it possible to draw some conclusions about the social science approach to social problems:

  • It relies on arguments making causal claims, rather than ass
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3.5 Social science approaches

So far we have looked at three more developed discussions of some of the basic propositions about poverty that we considered in section 2. These three examples could be multiplied: there is a variety of explanations of poverty that we could have used. However, these three allow us to reflect a little on the relationship between social science discussions of social problems and common-sense understandings. It is worth starting with some of the differences.


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3.3 Poverty as the result of poor people

The second cluster of common-sense ideas about poverty centre around the theme that the character and behaviour of some types of people causes them to be poor. Such people are in some way ‘flawed’. There may, of course, be different types of flaw, but poor people are distinguished from the rest of ‘us’ by some characteristic that makes ‘them’ poor. This might be their moral character (they are lazy, shiftless, workshy); it might be their abilities or capacities (they cannot budget
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3.1 Competing explanations of social problems

If we can agree that poverty is a social problem, we are led to another question: what sort of social problem is it? For some, it is a social problem because people should not be poor: it involves social injustice. For others, poverty is a social problem because poor people behave badly (or bring up children poorly): it involves social disorder. We therefore have another parting of the ways, with some believing that social justice requires poor people to become less poor, and others believing
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2.2 Summary

Social scientists need to stand back, to view common sense or ‘what everybody knows’ from the perspective of a stranger. Common sense about social problems such as poverty involves a process of social construction, drawing on a repository or storeroom of underlying theories and assumptions. Common sense has been built up over time, carrying with it traces of earlier understandings which are also brought into discussions of new issues and debates. Common sense is itself divided, reflecting
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7.4 Multiplying 2's complement integers

Multiplication can be thought of as repeated addition. For instance, in denary arithmetic

7 × 5

can be thought of as

7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 7

There is therefore no need for a new process for the multiplication of binary integers; multiplication can be transformed into repeated addition.

In multiplication the result is very often much larger than either of the two integers being multiplied, and so a multiple-length representation may be needed to hold the result of a mu
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3.4 Input and output considerations

CCDs are not inherently able to detect colour, only brightness. So it is necessary to rely on the fact that any colour of light can be made up from the three primary colours of light: red, blue and green. (Note that the three primary colours of light are different from the three primary colours of pigments.) Each CCD in the array is therefore overlaid with a red, blue or green filter and so detects the brightness of, respectively, the red light, the blue light or the green light falling on it
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2.4 Representing numbers: negative integers

In Section 2.2 I showed you how integers can be encoded if they are known to be positive, treating the integers in the kitchen scales as if they were known to be positive. However, if the user invokes the ‘add-and-weigh’ function on the scales while there is an object in the scalepan and then removes th
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2.2.2 Positive integers: binary numbers

Just as a denary number system uses ten different digits (0, 1, 2, 3, … 9), a binary number system uses two (0, 1).

Once again the idea of positional notation is important. You have just seen that the weightings which apply to the digits in a denary number are the exponents of ten. With binary numbers, where only two digits are used, the weightings applied to the digits are exponents of two.

The rightmost bit is given the weighting of 2°, which is 1. The ne
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12.2 Bytes of data

You will recall from Section 6.2 that a binary digit, or bit, can have one of two values: either a 0 or a 1. In a computer, bits are assembled into groups of eight, and a group of eight bits is known as a byte. The abbreviation used for a byte is B, so 512 bytes would be written as 512 B. Although this course will use ‘b’ for bit and ‘B’ for byte, you should be aware that not everyone makes this clear distinction.

A byte of data can represent many different things in a co
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9 A stand-alone computer

The computer you are using for your studies is called a personal computer or PC. Although you have an internet connection for use in this course, your computer can probably also be used as a stand-alone computer. Your PC may be a desktop computer or a notebook computer (sometimes known as a laptop computer). Usually a desktop computer comes with separate devices such as a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse and speakers and it runs on mains electricity. Notebook computers
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5.3 Accessibility

In Section 5.1 you assessed the usability of Figure 11, the noticeboard in a public park. For a visually impaired person, that noticeboard might not be usable at all, as you may have commented. This raises the issue of accessibility. Accessibility relates to how well a service is ada
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Acknowledgements

Except for third party materials and otherwise stated (see terms and conditions), this content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material within this product.

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4.6 Lineage linked data

Earlier you saw how a genealogical database records relationships between people. A lineage linked database allows queries such as ‘Ada Rosewell the daughter of John Rosewell’ and makes possible the creation of family pedigrees and other charts. For example, the pedigree chart below shows how Alcimenes was the son of Jason (the Argonaut) and Medea and the grandson of Aeson and Alcimedes.

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5.4 Set-up, maintenance and power requirements

Issues for set-up and maintenance include:

  • Cost (what are the costs of setting up and maintaining the technology?)

  • Availability of components (are components readily available?)

  • Interoperability (will devices from different vendors work together?)

  • Continuity of supply (will components still be available for a reasonable period in the future?)

Because of its greater range and complexit
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7.2 Difficulties in navigating e-commerce sites

People who are new to computing sometimes find the process of online ordering baffling and frustrating. They get ‘lost’ in the process – for example, by putting something into a virtual shopping cart and then remembering that there's something else they need to look for. So they return to the search engine or the catalogue and then can't find the cart. These kinds of commonly experienced difficulties can be addressed by good and adaptive site design, but still a disturbing proportion of
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