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Lecture 3

SOC107: WEEK 3 (JAN 29th) - "Symbolic Interaction"

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SOC 107
Alan Sears

SOC107-021 – Week 3 “Symbolic Interaction” th January 29 , 2013 Outline: 1. Premises of Symbolic Interactionism 2. Symbols and Meaning Making 3. The Self 4. Playing Roles 5. Non-conformism 6. Assessing Symbolic Interactionism --- 1. Premises of Symbolic Interactionism *discussion about “cheating” with Lance Armstrong example; is it still cheating if everyone cheats? How much is it about levelling the play field? Is it okay to break some rules and not others? What people say about rule-obeying or –breaking depend on one’s moral compass+ - Symbolic Interactionism – theoretical school [set of assumptions built on core premises/foundational assumptions about what makes people click] [functionalism: how and why do societies make rules? On the contrary, symbolic interactionism focusses on the immediate daily interactions - how we each make rules and make sense of them] [we have to go beyond what is obvious, focus on what looks deceptively simple] - Each theory – core premises – assumptions about the way the world works - Three premises (Blumer) 1. Human beings act toward things - on the basis of the meaning things have for them [meanings are crucial; meanings are swallowed up by most theories, and we should be more attentive] [behaviourism – combination of stimulus and response; reward for actions and punishment for others, we learn what is “good” behaviour and what is “bad”+ 2. Meanings develop out of symbolic interaction with others [where do we get our meanings? We take what is happening in the world around us and value or devalue them] [the meaning of a thing for a person grows out of the ways which other persons act toward that person with regard to a thing; examples – compliments on your scarf make you value your scarf, can also be for values, ideas, etc.] [Meaning is a social construct defined by the actions of others] 3. Meanings – handled – interpretive process *we’re not open to every meaning beamed at us, we don’t always go along with other people’s opinions, we handle (accept/reject) different meanings] [the only reason we value a loonie as opposed to tossing a Smartie is not anything inherent in the coin, but purely because of the value attached to it – our whole lives we have been taught that money is valuable; sometimes people measure success in the $ attached to the person] 2. Symbols and Meaning Making [an image that represents something else, the relation between the thing and the symbol is not fixed whereas a sign is fixed in meaning] - Language and the construction of reality - Human distinctiveness [our language and tool-making/-improving are distinct to our species, other species use signs, ex: ape call of “danger danger”+ - Language and symbols [we us a combination of 26 letters, there are symbols in the way we construct words; conversation of gestures and body language] - Language and interaction - Primacy of language *we don’t use language to put words on a situation (language does not symbolize what is already there), it makes possible the existence or the appearance of the situation or object – we only see an object because we have a word for it] - “we define first and then see” (Kuhn 1964: 69) [categories already exist in our head, we assign objects to these categories first; example – if we see some
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