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SOC483 OCT 26 Lecture - Goffman

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Vanina Leschziner

SOC483Y1 – OCT 26. 2011 Goffman: 1922 born in Alberta – 1982 - Wrote many books on different arenas of face to face interaction - General interest: studied interaction in small groups; dramaturgical approach because he uses the analogies of plays/stage - We all formulate identities through routine actions and gestures - Impression management strategies: we are always managing the roles that we present: reserve certain roles for certain people and situation - We are not lying or making up roles, the different roles we take just depend on the context of what is appropriate - You are still you at the bar, and in the role you take at school - You adjust the impression you give of yourself depending on audience - James/Schutz: there are different parts of ourselves and in different setting we stress these different parts depending on situation/context - give: the impression we want to give, and we explicitly try to do that - give off: unconscious impression we give off – i.e., a person wants to GIVE a confident impression but they are nervous and sweating so they GIVE OFF a nervous and different impression that we want - Why do we manage our impression? Our identity is not obvious to others so a way to convey our identity (i.e., clothing, verbal expression) o We pick clothing to project an image of our selves, dramaturge is so important because who we are is not obvious to others - Front Stage: where the performance happens - critiqued that he says people are always acting - Back Stage: where we don’t need to project a certain image of ourselves - Social life/interactions don’t always have to be performed: we may act a certain way when performing in the classroom but if we leave for a moment and run into a friend, we don’t have to perform 2 elements to interaction for Goffman: 1. Personal identity: how we convey our personal identity 2. Definition of the situation - a lot of dramaturgical approach has to do with managing ourselves - frame analysis have to do with the definition of a situation: how do we manage and deal with interactions: what we bring into the interactions and what situation is about - situations are defined in a certain way: certain elements of it allow us to define it in a situation way i.e., this is a class not a yoga session - there are ways of keying: giving cues that this is a class - we must all agree that this is the way we define this situation  Why is this important for interaction: it defines what role of ourselves we will project, which is most appropriate for this situation - once this situation is defined, we act in scripted ways and it happens that people will more or less follow these rules/scripts; follow certain norms  Why do people follow these rules: disrupting behavior that is not according to these norms, destroys the organization of interaction that every participant in it is united by, if you disrupt this organization: you are embarrassed and other people are embarrassed because they are no longer unified by a common organization - Norms = common agreed upon organization of interaction - Embarrassment: there are moments where there is a tension between projecting the best image of yourself and maintaining the definition of the situation o a prof is asked a very basic question and doesn’t know the answer o could make it up  save personal identity o can still cause embarrassment because someone might know answer or pick up on stumbling = embarrassment spreads 2 options: 1. Either to save personal identity (but this would complicate situation and may lead to future embarrassment, and embarrassment might spread) 2. Save the situation: say that you’re just blanking out and can’t remember o protect the class - we choose one option or the other, according to Goffman when dealing with embarrassment: we can see when people try to appease the embarrassment they are trying to protect the situation rather than individual’s identity  Why do we want to maintain the situation: - It’s in our benefit to enable smooth interaction - Not everyone gets to define a situation: no we can’t all define a situation because it has been defined in the past and there is a script attached  Why it is handy to explain the way things are going to go - easier to navigate social life - we also don’t always have the power to define a situation: we have roles within fixed situations - some situations are fixedly defined, but in some situations we have more power in defining the situation = unequal distribution of power - we don’t always have a say in defining situations, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have some input in this definition - we are not robots following scripts, we improvise them - we have to share an understanding of what the situation is about but how we play will vary depending on who we are and how we react to others and to the situation - everyday interaction is a constant series of the negotiation of these scripts - reason that everyday encounters feel like comfortable routines because we have these socially shared scripts to guide us - kind of hard to see because we know these scripts so well; in situations where we are unfamiliar and we don’t have scripts, we engage in this negotiation and improvising of scripts – but we still feel awkward - in these situations where this organization breaks down we can see people working hard to negotiate and maintain this consensus - what happens when situation breaks down: there is a gap between the identity that someone wants to project and definition of situation - embarrassment occurs when there is a difference between people’s projections of their identity and their definitions of the situations  2 roles of yourself that are not supposed to mix: i.e., embarrassed when seen with your parents by high school friends because you have 2 roles that were not separated: the role of the daughter and that of the cool friend. What role do you take? What definition of the situation do you try to maintain? - for Goffman what counts is not private feelings or private definitions of the situation but the public definition is important - i.e., you think your boss is an idiot but you won’t say that because it is the public definition that your boss is knowledgeable which is why he is the boss, so we express the public definition not personal one - contract to the public definition: obligation to perform the appropriate roles in the contract, but there is also the right to be treated according to what your role indicates: we feel the need to perform a role in the situation and be treated in a way that corresponds to our role - when something in this contract breaks down = embarrassment - i.e., when prof can’t answer Q she breaks her performance of the role and the social contract and thus feels embarrassment - we want to maintain this contract: we tend to reproduce certain scripts because we select scripts according to our roles that are socially effective i.e., going to job interview: wear a suit because it socially effective - easiest way to project a certain image when everyone else is wearing a suit, so why take a risk – thus we reproduce certain cultural patterns  Critique of Goffman: what we see is people producing same patterns and maintaining social order - What Goffman shows: if we work so hard to maintain smooth social order it is precisely because social interaction is so fragile: it is so likely to be threatened by things and to break down; this is why we engage in tricky interpersonal skills to try and maintain smooth interactions - Sonstantly projecting identities of ourselves that are agreed upon so that everyone can understand them – adhere to scripts that are consensual - Frame: the definition of a situation (organizing principles) + subjective involvement ie going to a party as popular and unpopular person will result in different frames: - both will agree that they went to a party but their subjective experience of it will be different - individual interpretations/meanings of the frame are bracketed - opening bracket is more important than the end: sets the tone of the interaction: waitress coming to table for first time sets tone for relationship - opening establishes the
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