Sociology of Everyday Life

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  • Created by: Rachel LH
  • Created on: 07-09-15 12:55

What is Everyday Life?

  • Everyday life is a phrase used to refer to the ways in which an individual, group or society typically acts, thinks, and feels on a daily basis.
  • The idea involves the definition of the self, and how people conceptualise relationships to the world and others.
  • It involves how people generate, establish, and interpret meaning.
  • The concept of normality can be the sociological and psychological bases for behavioural choices, thoughts and beliefs.
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Everyday Life is Automatic

  • Everyday life may be described as considered mundane, routine, natural or habitual.
  • Human diurnality means most people sleep at least part of the night and are active day time.
  • Most eat two or three meals a day.
  • Workers mostly work on a daily schedule, beginning in the morning.
  • Evening is often leisure time, ‘we must relate these micro - level processes to the macro - level of social order.’ (Scott 2009).
  • Much of everyday life is automatic in that it is driven by current environmental features as meditated by automatic cognitive processing of those features, and without any meditation by conscious choice, according to John A Burgh. 
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Work Definition

  • The Oxford Dictionary of Sociology defines work as the supply of physical, mental, and emotional effort to produce goods and services for own consumption, or for consumption by others.
  • Productive work falls into three main categories: economic activity or employment, unpaid domestic and leisure activities, and volunteer community service.
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Work and The Everyday

  • Regarding work and the everyday, rules and hierarchies are embedded in individuals working lives.
  • Workers are engaged in a continual process of negotiation, seeking greater flexibility and control.
  • The degree of control/ flexibility reflects on status.
  • People develop coping strategies to survive and resist repetition/ boredom/ the clock.
  • People modify their workspace and challenge rules in subtle ways.
  • Many employees ‘fiddle’ in various ways in order to redress perceived oppression, e.g. being online. 
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Lefebvre (1947) - Marxism

  • Henri Lefebvre, one of the most important French Marxist sociologists of the mid-century, first wrote of everyday life as a mind-numbing, alienating set of social conditions.
  • His book, Critique of Everyday Life, was published in 1947.
  • In it he linked what he called “everydayness” to Marx’s theory of alienation.
  • According to Lefebvre, everydayness was a modern day extension of the grip of alienation, part of the consequence of the rise of a modern form of capitalism.
  • Lefebvre argued that capitalism has gotten so powerful that it had grown beyond organising our productive and social relations in society; it also actually sucked the meaning out of everyday life.
  • Alienation, the feeling of exhaustion, stress and poverty consequential from he act of being forced to sell one’s labour, was experienced more painfully under modern capitalism precisely because the experiences of everyday life outside of work had been invaded by capitalism.
  • Without the genuine meaning and connection that had once taken place in everyday life outside of work, modern workers turned to consumption to fill the gap.
  • The lifestyle of consumption grew stronger and stronger under modern capitalism, and everyday life was marked by the purchase of commodities, which furthered the cycle of alienation. 
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Public and Private Spheres

  • Everyday life got a new set of meanings in the 1960’s along with the reemergence of arguments about the public sphere.
  • As the concept of the public sphere began to be increasingly defined as the world of work, politics and the service of citizenship, the private sphere began to be seen as the space of everything else, or the space of everyday life.
  • This loaded the idea of everyday life with the content of all that was seen as somehow being personal and private: love, family, sex, relationships, housework, emotions etc. 
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Spheres and Gender

  • It was in this context that feminist sociologists retrieved the idea of everyday life, and reinterpreted i as a social space that primarily contained that which was seen as belonging to women.
  • The public sphere was seen as the world of men, while the private sphere (and everyday life) was the realm of women.
  • Feminist sociologists argued that the world of women and the social relations of everyday life should be celebrated and valued.
  • Some also argued that the line between private and public spheres should be obliterated, allowing women into the public realm and, more important, removing value judgement from the assessment of the realms in which people pursue social interaction.
  • In other words, the obligations of everyday life - like helping a child with homework - are just as important as the work of the public realm - like participating in the work of a political party.
  • The womans movement politicised the idea of everyday life.
  • Home, and the private world, were sites for battle over the work and role of women.
  • “The personal is political” was a key theme for analysis and activism, and everyday life became a battleground.
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Dorothy E. Smith (1987)

  • By the 1970’s, feminist sociologists such as Dorothy E. Smith (1987) had added an important new dimension to the concept of everyday life.
  • They argued that the social reproduction of inequality could be seen in the normal interactions of everyday life.
  • This analytical insight helped reshape the focus for feminist research. As a topic of analysis, the social relationships of everyday life became increasingly important.
  • New empirical research during this time period began to focus on topics that had formerly been seen as banal, or unimportant, or too ‘everyday’.
  • Topics such as domestic violence, house work, mental illness, and childrearing emerged as critical and controversial areas for research.
  • Everyday life was not just what was left over from the important work if the public realm, but was in itself a set of relations that created and reproduced social inequalities.
  • The experiences of everyday life are important pieces of knowledge about our social world, and everyday life became a key focus of empirical study. 
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Adler (1987) Everyday Interaction

  • Naturally occurring interaction is the foundation of all understanding of society.
  • Describing and analysing the character and implications of everyday life interaction should thus serve as both the beginning and the end point of sociology.
  • This includes the perceptions, feelings, and meanings members experience as well as the micro structure they create in the process (Adler and Adler 1987; Fontana 1987).
  • Everyday life sociologists move from studying interaction and communication in two directions. 
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Adler (1987) Everyday Interaction - Continued

  • First, they move inward, toward consciousness, deriving a model of the actor based on people’s everyday life attitudes and behaviour.
  • This includes the interactionist view of the self, the ethnomethodological view of cognitive structure, and the existential view of brute being.
  • To a degree, the relationship between consciousness and interaction is seen as reflexive: people are shaped or socialised by interaction as well as instrumental in shaping the character of interaction (Adler and Adler; Fontana 1987).
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Blumer (1969) Everyday Interaction

  • Second, they employ a view of social structure and social order that derives from interaction and is also characterised by a reciprocal reaction to it.
  • Social structure, organisation, and order do not exists independent of people that interact within them (Blumer 1969).
  • Rather, they are endogenously constructed or constituted, as people negotiated their way through interactions.
  • The rituals and institutions they thus create then influence the character of their behaviour through the expectations and micro social norms they yield (Goffman 1967). I
  • Interaction is thus both voluntaristic and structured (but not completely determined) because of this reflexivity. 
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Goffman (1959) Presentation of Self in Everyday Li

  • Goffman’s new subfield, dramaturgy, was launched with the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959).
  • Influenced by the works of Blumer, Burke, and Durkheim, Goffman offered an analysis of the individual in society which made the arena of interaction the focus of reality, of socialisation, and societal regeneration.
  • Goffman’s work speaks to both roles (the nature of the self) and rules (micro - social norms).
  • Instead of role-taking for the purpose of cooperatively aligning their actions with others, Goffman’s actors intentionally and manipulatively role-play for the purpose of managing others’ impressions of them.
  • This occurs through the interaction rituals of everyday life - rituals that shape the individual’s inner self by externally imprinting their rules on him or her at the same time they ensure the self - regulatory character of society. 
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Goffman (1969) Presentation of Self in Everyday Li

  • The first type of information that concerns the verbal or non verbal symbols we continuously use in order to convey a specific meaning (e.g. traditional, explicit communication).
  • The other type of information consists of signs and expressions that actors unwittingly and unconsciously emit, signs the surroundings perceive as characteristic for that purpose (Goffman 1959).
  • In everyday face to face interactions, then, people are involved in two streams of communication.
  • In Goffmans view actors reciprocally form impressions of each other by noting the many bits of consciously emitted information, as well as through inference from appearances and non intended information.
  • Impression management, then, may take intentional as well as unintentional forms.
  • When an audience member in a workshop session continually tries to make a speech instead of asking a question, he or she may be intentionally involved in forming a certain impression of him/herself as a highly dictated scholar who rightly should have been on the presenting panel.
  • Unintentional impression management may be illustrated by the fact that although we often feel that we behave authentically whenever together with our friends and colleagues, we may present different sides of ourselves to our friends and colleagues respectively, accommodating the specific expectations presented by our friends and colleagues.  
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Franks and Hoschild (1983) Emotions and the Everyd

  • An everyday life approach to the study of emotions does not rule out a biological component but focuses instead on how these physiological processes are moulded, structured, and given meaning.
  • Emotions do not exist independent of everyday life experiences, they argue; rather, these experiences call out, modulate, shape, and ultimately create feelings.
  • These are labelled, assessed, and managed through and by interaction. Structural and cultural factors influence the feeling and interpretation of various emotions due to the way they constrain possibilities and frame situations (Franks and Hoschild 1983). 
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Sociologists - Emotions and the Everyday

  • Constructionist analysists include Goffman (1967), who discussed the link between situations and institutions and proposed that emotions are determined by the rules and micro acts that compromise situations.
  • Hochschild (1979;1983) discussed the types of “feeling rules” which are structurally mandated onto interactions and relationships through social guidelines.
  • People then try to make their feelings coincide with these rules by doing cognitive, bodily or expressive “emotions work.”
  • Emotion work can become commercialised when it is co-opted by business, leading to “commoditisation of feeling.”
  • Shott (1979) focused on role-taking emotions, suggesting that our empathy for the feelings of others is a mechanism ensuring the maintenance of social order and control.
  • Her discussion of the social processes common to diverse emotional experiences also accentuated structurally derived display rules.
  • Gordon’s (1981) approach to emotions focused on sentiments, learned in enduring social relationships, whose differentiation, socialisation, management, and normative regulation are structurally dictated.
  • Building on Hoschild, Heiss (1981) discussed “emotion rules” which are shaped through interaction by individuals definitions of the situation, role-taking, self concepts, and self presentations, leading to the formation of ‘emotion roles’, i.e. Clark’s discussion of sympathisers (1987).
  • Avery (1980) proposed that during states of heightened emotional arousal we experience passivity and enact a socialy prescribed behaviour.
  • Zurcher (1982; 1985) and Lofland (1985) have suggested that emotions are scripted by structural and interactional contexts.
  • Finally, Denzin (1984) has suggested that emotions are shaped through the direct experience of practiceal activities in the processes of the obdurate social world.
  • In summary, understanding emotions enriches our perspective on the actor’s voluntarism and illustrates further one means by which society motivates individuals to conform to its rules. 
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Conversation and Everyday Life

  • Conversation analysis is a method of data gathering and analyses that it is informed by the theoretical beliefs of ethnomethodology.
  • Like other ethnomethodologists, conversation analysts have largely abandoned the earlier ethnomethodological concern with studying the contextual particularly of subjective meanings because endless indexicality refuted any intersubjectivity and became a “ phenomenologically inspired but sociologically aimless empiricism” (Zimmerman 1978).
  • Drawing on Parsons through Garfinkel and Durkheim through Goffman (Heratige 1985), conversation analysts have embraced a structural interest that makes them more closely aligned with and acceptable to the interests of positivist mainstream sociologists.
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Conversation Analysts

  • Conversation analysts study language because they regard “natural language” as an everyday - life social system that is (a) external existing prior to and independently of any speaker, and (b) constraining, obligatory rather than preferential in its framing.
  • Natural language as a “mode of doing things” (Austin 1961; Wittgenstein 1953) is thus reviewed as an interactional object, a widespread, general, abstract system that is both immediate (situational) and transcendent (transituational).
  • As such, it exhibits the objective properties of transcendent (transsituational). As such, it exhibits the objective properties of a Durkheimian social fact (Zimmerman 1979).
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Conversation Analysts 2

  • Conversationist analysts are concerned with both the competencies and the structure underlying ordinary, everyday social activities.
  • They therefore study the production of natural language in situationns, as it occurs spontaneously on the everyday world.
  • They regard conversation as both context shaped and context renewing, influenced by and contributing to the context shaped by interaction.
  • Disdaining “premature” theory construction, they have focused on tape recording minute, detailed ‘instances’: the raw, primary data of actual conversation.
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Conversation Analysts - Sacks et al (1947)

  • In their studies, conversation analysts began by concentrating on action sequences of talk.
  • An interest in turns within sentences developed out of the early works of Sacks et al (1974) on the management of conversational turn taking.
  • It was soon discovered that such structural analyses of talk served as a guideline for interpersonal interaction and its analysis.
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Conversation Analysts - Schegloff and Sacks (1973)

  • Further conversation analysis has focused on a number of topics.
  • First, Sacks, Schegloff, and others continued to investigate turn taking, observing the recurrence of the question response formation the termed the “agency pair” (Schegloff 1968; Schegloff and Sacks 1973), “preference organisation” (the tendency of respondents to select the preferred alternative), and “topic organisation” ( the continuatuion of conversation around the same topic).
  • Second, conversation analysts have examined the use of non orquasilecial speech objects such as laughter and head nods that show the listeners continuing participation in the interaction.
  • A third area of inquiry has been the integration of vocal and non vocal activities, such as gazing and body movements. 
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Conversation Analysis - Institutions - Collins (19

  • Last, a number of excellent studies have examined interaction in institutional settings. These works build on the foundation of knowledge about mundane conversations, seek variations from that structure, and attribute it to the institutional context.
  • As such, this body of work represents a more contextual approach and moves away from pure empiricism toward the beginnings of theoretical development.
  • Institutional settings that have yielded fruitful research include courts, classrooms, and medical encounters.
  • Several studies have also addressed the impact of gender on institutional interaction.
  • While focused on naturally occurring, mundane communication observed in situations, conversation analysis diverges sharply in its orientation from the remaining corpus of everyday life sociology.
  • It is more structural in interest and formal in analysis. Conversation analysis is also more objectively oriented, treating conversation as external to individuals, encouraging the replication and testing of its findings, and addressing the context of verification.
  • In this way it departs from the customary hallmarks of everyday life sociology - subjectivity and discovery.
  • Yet at the same time as it diverges, conversation analysts broadens the base of the everyday life perspective.
  • Its radically micro and radically empiricist approach translates the product of interaction into a form that can be built upon by macro sociologists interested in an objective micro base for grand structural analysis (Collins 1981). 
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Leisure and Everyday Life

  • Leisure time is used to inject movements of freedom, pleasure and escapism into our daily lives, from the small breaks we schedule into chores, through the hobbies that carve out hedonistic enclaves, to the vacations we take to new landscapes.
  • At the same time, we should remain critically aware of the limits to these practices as there are limitations to the extent of leisure providing an escape from the everyday world. Individuals may try to find order, pattern and routine in rebellious escape attempts.
  • This reminds us of the interplay between agency and structure, freedom and restraint, rule braking and social order. 
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Leisure in contrast with Work

  • The most noticeable thing about leisure is that it is implicitly contrasted with work. It is negatively defined as ‘time off’ from doing what we should be doing, a break from routine that allows us to indulge in non-essential tasks: “work represents the everyday routine; rest us a temporary interruption” (Rybcznski 1991).
  • Nobody lives a life of unmitigated pleasure, and our free time is usually limited to spatially and temporally bound zones; we remain aware that at some point we will have to return to our duties, though, as we shall see, this may evoke feelings of relief.
  • The word ‘leisure’ itself originates from the latin liquor, meaning ‘to be allowed’ or ‘lawful’, indicating that we experience leisure as something to be enjoyed only in moderation. 
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Leisure in contrast with Work - Rybcznski (1991)

  • The most noticeable thing about leisure is that it is implicitly contrasted with work. It is negatively defined as ‘time off’ from doing what we should be doing, a break from routine that allows us to indulge in non-essential tasks: “work represents the everyday routine; rest us a temporary interruption” (Rybcznski 1991).
  • Nobody lives a life of unmitigated pleasure, and our free time is usually limited to spatially and temporally bound zones; we remain aware that at some point we will have to return to our duties, though, as we shall see, this may evoke feelings of relief.
  • The word ‘leisure’ itself originates from the latin liquor, meaning ‘to be allowed’ or ‘lawful’, indicating that we experience leisure as something to be enjoyed only in moderation. 
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Giddens (1984) Leisure is Freedom

  • Leisure represents freedom: it is the way in which we exercise choice over our everyday lives.
  • Even when they are not enjoyable leisure activites provide a break from the routine, reminding us that this is possible, that we are not doggedly committed to incessant work.
  • The dialogue between social structure and human agency, or the ‘transformantic capacity’ of individuals to make a difference to the worlds in which they live (Giddens 1984).
  • It seems that we have social and an emotional as well as a biological need to take time out from everyday life. 
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Cohen and Taylor (1992) Escape Attempts

  • This idea was explored in the famous study by Cohen and Taylor (1992) of the ‘ escape attempts’ that people make in the context of mundane, day to day living.
  • These things might include daydreaming and fantasies, shopping, sex, or retreating to certain deignated ‘free areas’, of which there were three types.
  • These were activity enclaves, such as hobbies, sports and games; new landscapes, such as holiday resorts, art galleries, fashion and subcultures; and meniscuses, which take the excerpts into altered states of consciousness, such as drinking, drugs and intriguingly - psychotherapy.
  • Interestingly, Cohen and Taylor suggest that each of those opportunities for escape is built into institutional structures of everyday life - the very rules that we are trying to break.
  • For example, day dreaming takes place while one is engaged in boring activity, and vacations have to be negotiated with employers or co-ordinated with school timetables.
  • In this way acts of apparent resistance feed back into the fabric of the everyday world and reproduce social order: “… our life scripts will not always make room for our fantasies.
  • We took elsewhere to cope with routine, boredom, lack of individualist, frustration.
  • We want a genuine escape, a flight to an area in which we can temporarily absent ourselves from paramount reality, find ourselves out of play, and assemble our identity in peace or with new more powerful symbolic resources.
  • Society creates just such areas and sign posts them (Cohen and Taylor 1992).
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Rybcynski (1991) Work routines

  • The contrast between leisure and work (or other duties) reveals another important dimension of the former: free time has to be scheduled into the routines from which it provides an escape, and as such we can observe rhythmic patterns of what Rybcynski (1991) calls ‘time on’ and ‘time off’.
  • We divide our days, weeks and moths into these two categories in order to make sense of the passing of time.
  • For example bored office workers find themselves counting the hours until 5.00pm when they can go home, and ‘waiting for the weeked’ from as early as monday morning.
  • In Britain, there is an implicit custom that little serious work is done on Fridays, and colleagues often leave early to go for a celebratory drink.
  • Indeed, going to the pub is an important ritual in marking the transition between work and home, or on and time off. 
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Rybcynski (1991) Work routines - Examples

  • Crucially, however, Rybcynski emphasises that these temporal categories are completely arbitary, reflecting social customs, norms and values.
  • For example, the division of the week into five working days and two weekend days is specific to modern capitalist societies.
  • In Roman times, a market was held on every eighth day, the mundane, whereas in ancient grease and eygpt relaxation was seen as an important indulgence for all.
  • Even within contemporary european societies, there is widespread variation in working hours and liesure time (Fagan 2002).
  • Rybcznski suggests every society recognises the need for rest and recuperation, but that they interpret this in various ways.
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Hebdige (1979) Leisure and Identity

  • Leisure practices can also be used as a way of performing the collective identity of a subculture or minority group.
  • Dick Hebdige (1979) showed how successive generations of post - war UK youth subcultures adopted distinctive fashion styles and their enenmbent lifestyles to display an attitude of resistance to what they perceived as the dominant values of mainstream, middle - class British society.
  • The 1950’s Teddy boys wore their hair in quiffs and hung out in milk bars, the 1960’s Mods and rockers dressed respectively in smart suits or biker gear and congregated on the streets, while the 1970’s Punks sported ripped jeans, piercings and Mohican haircuts, adorned with an attitude of boredom and derision.
  • Each of these, Hebdige argued, was a way of winning symbolic space for an alternative set of values, in resistance to dominant ideologies.
  • In semiotic terms, they could be read as symbolic violation of the social order through the performance enactment of conflicting values. 
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Leisure Examples

  • One of the most important ways in which we spend our leisure time is by going on holiday or vacation.
  • Just as short-term escape attempts are built into our daily routines, we also set aside longer periods of designated free time with the rhythm of the calendar year.
  • Indeed, the very word ‘vacation’ stems from the verb ‘ to vacate’, or to leave empty - we abandon our homes and seek to forget their incumbent concerns.
  • Vacations have an appeal in that they promise to provide a radical and prolonged escape to a site that is physically as well as mentally removed from the sphere of everyday life.
  • As we shall see, this involves aspects of social order, rituals and routines, and norm breaking challenges. 
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Leisure Examples 2

  • Leisure is often negatively defined as an absence, escape or freedom from work.
  • Social time is organised into rhythmic schedules of time on and time off, such as the division of the working week into weekdays and weekends, or the religious observance of ‘holy days’.
  • Holidays represent periods of carefully contained, temporally bounded escapism, during which norms of social behaviour are relaxed.
  • They provide an opportunity for licensed carnival within liminal zones.
  • Vacationing is a social ritual, although its form has changed in line with cultural shifts.
  • For example, the traditional seaside holiday has been replaced by the moblie tourist gaze.
  • Leisure time often involves deviant activities that break formal or informal social rules, such as football hooliganism or holiday romances.
  • However, this apparent deviance is actually functional in keeping us ultimately committed to social order.
  • Vacation time is enjoyed in the knowledge that is time limited, and workaday routines are resumed without question. 
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Goffman (1969) Presentation of Self in Everyday Li

  • In Goffmans own words, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life may be considered a handbook presenting a sociological perspective that may be used to study the social lives of human beings.
  • Specifically, he is interested in the type of mutual influencing that takes place between people who are physically corpulent.
  • Offering, then, a dramaturgical perspective, Goffman intends to explore certain fundamental principles underlying face to face interaction.
  • Employing the dramaturgical perspective, Goffman thought the book analysed himself and his activity to others, the ways in which he guides and controls the impression they form of him, and the kinds of things he may and may not do while sustaining his performance before them (Goffman 1969). 
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Goffman (1969) Presentation of Self in Everyday Li

  • Introducing the dramaturgical framework, Goffman suggested that when an individual is in the immediate physical presence of other people, he or she will unavoidably seek to control the impression that others form of him or her in order to achieve individual or social goels.
  • There actor will engage in the impression management.
  • On the other side, the other participants in the social encounter will attempt to form an impression of who and what this particular individual is.
  • They will try to form a picture of his or her identity, and for that purpose they use a number of different types of sign vehicles, each saying something about the person in question.
  • Unfolding the concept of impression management, Goffman differentiates between the information that actors “give” and the imformation they “give off”.
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