Knowledge Universes, Social Representations and Codes

A Comment On Souza (2020, Vol.29 No.2) - "Places from which we speak: The concepts of consensual and reified universes and the interpretation of the outcomes obtained with ALCESTE and IRAMUTEQ"

  • Joao Wachelke Federal University of Uberlandia
Keywords: consensual universe, reified universe, social representations, codes, interview


The concepts of reified and consensual universes are central to social representations theory, addressing the relationships of different kinds of knowledge in terms of their validity, production and communication. Often the nature of specialized knowledge from the reified universe is thought to be of a different kind from that of representations. Souza (2020) argues that Moscovici, while introducing the two universes, clarified that they both had a representational nature but were different in their functioning and social roles. Souza then proposes that the two universes reflect subjective positioning towards knowledge, which is observed in the results of interview data analyzed through top-down hierarchical classification. I suggest that the framing of social representations as codes from a semiotic point of view, as well as the consideration of code properties, can contribute to understand the differences regarding the two knowledge universes. Finally, in methodological terms, the interview, as a technique that fosters conversation, seems to stimulate research participants to first define the topic of interest in terms of reified knowledge, due to its social legitimacy as a code, and later provide their personal views based on experience, i.e., consensual universe knowledge.