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Introduction to Social Analysis. Week 4, Symbolic Interactions: What do people do when they interact? http://www.last.fm/music/Bessie+Smith/_/Kitchen+Man. What do we do when we interact with one another? How do we know how to behave?

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Introduction to Social Analysis


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    1. Introduction to Social Analysis Week 4, Symbolic Interactions: What do people do when they interact? http://www.last.fm/music/Bessie+Smith/_/Kitchen+Man

    2. What do we do when we interact with one another? How do we know how to behave? How do we know how to make sense of other peoples behaviour towards us? http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v443/n7107/images/443008a-i1.0.jpg What do people do when they interact?

    3. Symbolic interaction is a theory which enables us to look at the rituals of daily life. A way of looking at the world which enables us to examine the minutia interpersonal behaviour required for meaningful communication. http://tscp.open.ac.uk/t183/images/l2cartoon1.gif What do people do when they interact?

    4. Studies: • Goffman, Erving. 1971 The presentation of self in everyday life Harmondsworth : Penguin. 301.11 GOF

    5. Social life as drama • Likening social life to acting, to `performances' and to drama has been a common strategy among sociologists. • “The issues dealt with by stage-craft and stage management are sometimes trivial but they are quite general; they seem to occur everywhere in social life, providing a clear-cut dimension for formal sociological analysis.”

    6. Feature of reflexivity that people can distance themselves from their behaviour and modify it - play a role. Some argue that this is the key characteristic of humans which distinguishes them from social animals and proto-humans Each individual can be seen as putting on a performance in an ongoing process of managing the impressions that other have of him or her. Such impression management is an important part of social life and of the successful realisation of one's projects and with avoiding the worst consequences of other people's projects. i.e. successful interaction http://pro.corbis.com/images/42-15235870.jpg?size=67&uid={5906BBD6-57DF-48A6-B922-F75C60714B64} Impression management

    7. “Information about the individual helps to define the situation, enabling others to know in advance what he will expect of them and what they may expect of him. Informed in these ways, the other's will know how best to act in order to call forth a desired response from him,” http://www.tayside.police.uk/newsimages/new%20uniform1138789351.jpg defining the situation

    8. Tacit knowledge “If unacquainted with the individual, observers can glean clues from his conduct and appearance which allow them to apply their previous experience with: • individuals roughly similar to the one before them or, • more important, to apply untested stereotypes to him. They can also assume from past experience that only individuals of a particular kind are likely to be found in a given social setting. They can rely on what the individual says about himself or on documentary evidence he provides as to who and what he is.

    9. The expressiveness of the individual (and therefore his capacity to give impressions) appears to involve two radically different kinds of sign activity: the expression that he gives, and the expression that he gives off. The first … is communication in the traditional and narrow sense. The second involves a wide range of action that others can treat as symptomatic of the actor, the expectation being that the action was performed for reasons other than the information conveyed in this way http://www.pophangover.com/images/punish-2.jpg Reading the signs

    10. control is achieved largely by influencing the definition of the situation which the others come to formulate, he can influence this definition by expressing himself in such a way as to give them the kind of impression that will lead them to act voluntarily in accordance with his own plan Sign – one thing which stands for another Symbol – conveys complex meanings http://www.htzfm.com/files/htzfm/images/robber10_0.jpg strategies for interaction - impression management

    11. Goffman did his Ph.D fieldwork in the Shetland Isles • http://farm1.static.flickr.com/165/339882797_4c567b8091.jpg?v=0

    12. Present don’t show • A specific illustration may be cited from Shetland Isle. When a neighbour dropped in to have a cup of tea, he would ordinarily wear at least a hint of an expectant warm smile as he passed through the door into the cottage. Since lack of physical obstructions outside the cottage and lack of light within it usually made it possible to observe the visitor unobserved as he approached the house, islanders sometimes took pleasure in watching the visitor drop whatever expression he was manifesting and replace it with a sociable one just before reaching the door. However, some visitors, in appreciating that this examination was occurring, would blindly adopt a social face a long distance from the house, thus ensuring the projection of a constant image.

    13. Initial impression are important: they are the basis of this initial information for the individual to start to define the situation and start to build up lines of responsive action. When the individual employs these strategies and tactics to protect his own projections, we may refer to them as 'defensive practices'; when a participant employs them to save the definition of the situation projected by another, we speak of 'protective practices' or 'tact'. Together, defensive and protective practices comprise the techniques employed to safeguard the impression fostered by an individual during his presence before others. Few impressions could survive if those who received the impression did not exert tact in their reception of it. http://farm1.static.flickr.com/179/377479393_583fb3773c.jpg?v=1170556760 Interaction requires collusion between the parties engaged

    14. Tools for successful impression management: front and back regions. • Much of social life, Goffman suggested, can be divided up into front regions and back regions. • Front regions are social occasions or encounters in which individuals act out formal or stylised roles - the are ‘on stage performances’. The back regions are where they assemble the props and prepare themselves for interaction in the more formal settings.

    15. Back regions resemble the ‘backstage’ of a theatre, or the ‘off-camera’ activities of filming. When they are safely behind the scenes’, people can relax, and give vent to feelings and styles of behaviour they keep in check when on ‘front stage’.

    16. Team-work is often involved in creating and preserving front-region performances.

    17. what are the key theoretical concepts in this approach? • Goffman’s research method is participant observation. Theory is developed by trying systematise results of observation. • Depends on theories of communication as exchange, and on the rational actor developing a strategy for interaction in context. • Roles are not simply scripts they have to be mutually negotiated between the characters. • The idea of ‘everyday life’ – the bits in between. Not a study of institutions per se but in principle any interaction.

    18. Reading: • Giddens, A. Sociology. 5ed. Chapter 5 Social Interaction and Everyday Life. This gives an introduction to the symbolic interactionist perspective. • Pip Jones 2003 Introducing Social Theory. Polity Press, Chap. 6 “Interpretive Sociology; Action theories”. This gives a basic introduction to the place of symbolic interaction approaches within sociology.

    19. . • Pei-Chia Lan 2006 Global Cinderellas: Migrant Domestics and Newly Rich Employers in Taiwan Duke University Press.

    20. The book is based on interviews with and ethnographic observation of Taiwanese middle class employers and their live-in maids hired from the Philippines and Indonesia. Study of work but work carried out in the ‘home’. Study of class but where status difference is confounded by gender, race and nationality. http://dhsc.evta.gov.tw/eng/intro.html Phillipina maids in Hong Kong http://www.spraguephoto.com/search.lasso?category=labor&-token.max=30&skip=90 Work context: globalised domestic labour

    21. The maids are caring for the children of one family while having their own children cared for ‘back home’. They are frequently better educated and speak better English [the language of communication] that their masters and mistresses. Front and back stage areas have to be managed by both parties Global Cinderellas: http://dubaijobsnetwork.net/photos/4.graduate.bmp

    22. Front and back regions • “The metaphors of front and back stage illustrate the distinct social perceptions regard various spatial realms; such conceptualisation of space mirrors and materializes the social order that excludes or marginalizes migrant workers. In employer’s households, the living room is at the front, reserved for the family and guests, while the kitchen and balcony are categorised as “maid space” or backstage area.” http://flickr.com/photos/42304632@N00/2137875315/in/photostream/

    23. “The concept of front and back stage also describe how migrant workers negotiate multiple identity performances across spatial settings. In front of the employers migrant women “act like a maid”. Only on Sunday are they able to take off the deferential apron and put on the self-proclaimed image. Interaction, both parties have interactional ‘strategy’. Front and back regions http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/lessons/race/domestic_400.jpg http://www.cofresidr.com/images/img/staff3.jpg

    24. Front and back regions • In front of their families and relatives, migrant workers perform the role of “national heroes” by showcasing their material gains and overseas adventures. Their suffering and alienation are well kept secrets to be circulated only among migrant friends in the host country.” (Lan 2006: 197)

    25. The hierarchically organized urban landscape also has front and back Taiwanese object to the congregation of migrant workers at Taipei Railway Station for fear of tainting the fontal image of the global city. And yet less public complaints are directed at the distribution of migrant businesses behind Taoyuan Railway Station, the backstage part of a backstage region of Taiwan. (Lan 2006: 197) Nations have front and back regions

    26. “Luisa obscures her previous social positions from her employers. And, to perfect the “maid” performance, she has to carefully manage the transition from the front to the backstage. Every Sunday, Luisa brings her jewellery, miniskirt and make up kit to the church and changes in the bathroom before attending mass.” (Lan 2006: 228) Co-operation necessary to sustain interaction

    27. Pei-Chia Lan is herself from Tawain but did her education and the Ph.D on which the book is written in USA – University of Chicago. Having returned to Chicago to write up her fieldwork, she took a break to do the laundry. “My neighborhood was a racially mixed area where Mexican vendors sold snacks on the street but newly renovated condominiums near the lake shore were attracting growing numbers of yuppie residents. The global is personal http://www.iias.nl/index.php?q=node/81

    28. While I was walking to the laundromat at the street corner, a middle-aged white man passing by tossed me a question: “Do you know anybody who can take care of my mom?” Hit by this out-of-the-blue inquiry, I stood there, confused, speechless, and then humiliated and angry.” (Lan 2006:xi) The global is personal http://www.iias.nl/index.php?q=node/81

    29. Towards the end of her time as a doctoral student she sub-lets a posh apartment from two of her professors. Prior to the end of their sabbatical the landlords arrange for a firm to send a cleaning lady to clean the flat. She puts out some food and waits for the cleaner (although she doesn’t have to). http://www.id-mag.com/upload/images/snack_MaraPeter.jpg The global is personal

    30. “The bell rang and at the door was a woman in her early forties who was possibly Polish. I nervously introduced myself and asked her name. She looked confused and shook her head, saying only “No speak English”. Throwing me a brief smile, smile she quickly went into the kitchen and started her work. Obviously she had cleaned this apartment many times before – she knew where everything was much better than I did. I felt like a defeated soldier in a battle for class equality, albeit without the presence of an enemy. I retreated to my room, closed the door, and tried to do some writing. But my stage-managed air of calm could not endure after I heard her cleaning the toilet that I had sat on only ten minutes before. I immediately folded up my laptop and ran to a coffee shop nearby. I dared not return until hours later, when I was sure she had left my “home”.” (Lan 2006:237-8) The global is personal