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WEEK 4 Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

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1 WEEK 4 Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
This work is an attempt at analyzing our daily life world from the perspective that All of our actions we perform - and the interpretations and meanings we give to these actions - are fundamentally social in nature.

2 In carrying out this analysis, therefore, the perspective Goffman adopts is that of the
Analogy of the everyday life to the theatrical, or the dramaturgical performances. He has employed as a framework the metaphor of theatrical performance for describing our daily life practices.

3 Goffman’s key concepts
1. The distinction of two modes of communication expressions we give and expressions we give off (Behave in a way that makes people think of you in a certain way)

4 The expression we give is the concretely intended and conscious form of expression, as showed by verbal communications using language. The expression we give off is the non-verbal, presumably unintentional, form of communication that is not concretely expressed in speech but nevertheless have efficacy in communicating, consciously or unconsciously, some things about the person expressing it. (not necessarily have to be unintentional in turn and, in fact, people are capable of manipulating them as well.)

5 2. The symmetry vs. the asymmetry of these two modes of expression.
Symmetry occurs whenever there is an harmony between what these two modes of expressions communicate, Asymmetry is whenever these two do not express same things. Thus, say, when a student who had been yawning all along a lecture, nevertheless says he had enjoyed the talk greatly, then there is an asymmetry in what these two modes of expressions communicate.

6 3. ‘Working consensus’ Performers need to establish a working consensus among themselves regarding the performance they are going to play. Performers all have to share the same idea of the impression they want to give. If everybody plays his role according to his own understanding, the total impression would be the chaos.

7 When two parties meet, they need to define the situation or establish a working consensus, in other words they have to agree upon what the reality is like. It includes what their social statuses, their relationship in this particular situation, their intentions etc. are. For that purpose they employ a number of means that serve as symbols (e.g. gestures, the environment, way of speaking).

8 It can be well perceived as a performance, whose aim is to give a particular impression to the other party. People always enter an interaction with some intentions concerning the interaction. Hence its to their advantage to be able to control the interaction and guide it in the desired direction, in other words to enforce their definition of the situation. The resulting working consensus is then a product of the efforts of all participants to enforce their own desired definition of the situation, under the restriction that they want to avoid a conflict.

9 Performances Goffman uses the term 'performance' to refer to all the activity of an individual in front of a particular set of observers, or audience. Through this performance, the individual, or actor, gives meaning to themselves, to others, and to their situation. These performances deliver impressions to others and information is exchanged to confirm identity. The actor may or may not be aware of their performance or have an objective of their performance, however the audience is always attributing meaning it and to the actor.

10 1. Belief in the Part One is Playing
There is a different degree as to how much an individual believes that the expression one is putting up as social performance represents the true reality. At one extreme, a performer sincerely feels that whatever he/she is doing represents the true reality, at the other extreme the performer has no belief at all that his/her action stands for anything sincerely real.

11 Between these two extremes there are all kinds of different degrees as to how much actions are believed to be "real". Goffman distinguishes between sincere and cynical performers. A sincere performer is "convinced that the impression of reality which he stages is the real reality", whereas a cynical performer is one who "has no belief in his own act".

12 2. Front The expressive equipment that performers use intentionally or unintentionally during their performances constitutes the 'front'. It includes two elements, the setting and the personal front. Objects such as furniture, decorations, layout of rooms, and so on, that usually stay in one place, are all parts of the setting.

13 The personal front is the set of things more intimately identified with the performer, such as how they look, their clothing and jewelry, speech and vocal patterns, gestures, and facial expressions The front or 'the mask' is a standardized, generalizable and transferable technique for the performer to control the manner in which the audience perceives him or her. Front is standardized expressive equipment that people use to define situations in a general and fixed way.

14 There is a front stage , a back stage and off-stage.
The front stage is the roles people play such as following rules and following social norms. When in the back stage, the actor may behave differently than when in front of the audience on the front stage. This is where the individual truly gets to be himself or herself and get rid of the roles that he or she play when they are in front of other people. In the off-stage, there is no audience. This is where a place where a person can practice impression management.  

15 3. Dramatic Realization Human actions are not done only for their own inherent sake in the presence of others, they are fundamentally social in nature. People typically, in the presence of others, "dramatize" what they are doing - highlighting and emphasizing those aspects of what they are doing they want to convey most. Some professions face no problem of this dramatization, as policemen, musicians, etc.

16 Other professions face a little more difficulty
Other professions face a little more difficulty. This often leads to the dilemma of whether one should focus on doing whatever they are doing "for their own sake", or should one be concerned more about expressing what they are doing to others. Dramatic realization is a portrayal of aspects of the performer that s/he wants the audience to know. When the performer wants to stress something, s/he will carry on the dramatic realization.

17 4. Idealization A performance often presents an idealized view of the situation to avoid confusion (misrepresentation) and strengthen other elements (fronts, dramatic realization).

18 Performers have tendency to offer observers impressions idealized in several different ways in social interaction. One aspect of this idealization is the concealment of aspects of their lives performers do not want observers to see and, therefore systematically attempt to hide. In opposite way, performers may also exaggerate that their actions, or relationships they have to others, are "special" and worthy of preferential attention.

19 Thus, many of the social interactions rely on the feelings on the parts of participants that they are of special significance to each other - and people try to give impression to others that their relationship is specially important. Audiences often have an 'idea' of what a given situation (performance) should look like and performers will try to carry out the performance according to that idea.

20 5. Maintenance of expressive control
Maintenance of expressive control refers to the need to stay 'in character'. Enactment of roles cannot always be perfect. Inconsistent information is sometimes projected in the course of the presentation that threatens the definition of the situation. Maintenance of expressive control is how well the person performing portrays his/her message. If he does it well then the audience will understand it otherwise there is always the possibility of misunderstanding.

21 6. Misrepresentation It can be said that since in a social setting people do not act for the sake of actions only but are concerned about their impression management, some form of misrepresentation is always likely to occur. However, what is "true", or what is "false", or what is "honest" and what is a "lie", are socially defined and cannot be defined in absolute terms.

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