British psychologist Bartlett understood the notion of a “schema” as being that which creates a cognitive structure for us to make sense of what is around us – Taylor also discusses this and conceptualizes the idea of “prototypes” – or as Bartlett or Baudrillard (and perhaps many others) would understand as a ‘paradigm’ – that is, the shared expectation of how a something should present itself. So, the prototype of a kitchen would have to include a source of heat for cooking on, or else it would not be a kitchen and would instead fit into another structure.
Schemas are useful for helping us understand the world around us, but what happens when this imaginary gets a bit ‘too real’? Discourse, social practise and the imaginary can be seen to compose our understandings of the world, Taylor saw it as people ‘imagining their social surroundings’ in their day to day life, as articulated through expressions of the self, such as the narratives we create and the stories we tell – as well the images and symbols that hold meaning for us. (This is separate from theory as theorists are immersed within their own specialist knowledge systems.)
As Strauss points out, “paradigmatic examples repeated in popular culture may carry more weight.” So the repetition of particular media tropes, messages and ideas can very well form a schematic understanding, or if you like, an “imaginary”. This is a concern because even though we may not fully internalize everything, indeed we may well reject much of what we are fed – we still may hold some contradictory and incohesive values as a result. So in this instance we could draw attention to Strauss’ example of a feminist woman, fully aware of the implications of the ‘glass ceiling’ who has still managed to internalize negative discourses around the idea of the “welfare mother” and is able to view these as completely separate from each other.
I’ve been thinking about to what extent do these shared practises, that become ‘common sense’ understandings of the world, constrain and limit our own agency in how we are able to think about certain things? What actually lies underneath discursive practise? And how possible is it to reach what Saussure believed as a fixed ‘objective’ reality buried beneath layers of signification?