Dramaturgy and Its Origins

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Dramaturgy and its origins

Social interactions in our day-to-day lives are what give society, and the people within it, meaning; this meaning helps us establish the manner in which we interact with others. These meanings are therefore contextual and situational and rely on the individual we interact with, and therefore vary in exact meaning, but are usually already objectified, and socially constructed pre-interaction. We undergo a correspondence between our different meanings until reaching some sort of consensus. These interactions tell us how to respond to our current situation, and more importantly, how to behave in future interactions with a specific individual, or any individual that has similar characteristics; this however becomes riskier due to assumptions being made. In other words, an interaction is an opportunity for us to present ourselves in the way that we want to be perceived. It’s a two-way performance with social scripts that are constantly being revised to fit the current interaction. Over the course of this paper I will support the idea of “Dramaturgy” (a term coined by Erving Goffman used to depict Social Life as a theatrical act) using three main ideas established in our recent readings; these being “The Social Construction Of Reality”, “Symbolic Interactionism”, and “The Presentation Of Self In Everyday Life”.

The basis for how and why we present ourselves in social interactions lies primarily in the constructs of reality in our social surroundings. In studying social interactions on a macro level, as Émile Durkheim has, it would be useful to look at the actual process of the social construction of reality, however as my focus – as well as Goffman’s – is on a micro level, the actual structure and way we perceive our current reality is significantly more important in explaining our personal social interactions. We grow up in a world where nearly all of the possible rules in our societies have been institutionalized, and are therefore ‘common knowledge’. These are the rules that tell us how to react to situations within our expected reality, and how to interact with different types of people within it. We are rarely ever told of these institutionalized rules, and therefore we have to negotiate (refine) the rules of our reality during our face-to-face interactions. This is our way of sharing the here and now, which constantly helps us make sense of reality, whether physical or abstract, through how individuals perceive situations and respond emotionally to them. We learn about the different categories of people (Schema), through our typification of them, based on their behavior, and categorized based on our sedimented interpretation of their behavior.3 The way that we, as a society, perceive characteristics to form different ‘Schema’ allows us to form our own individual characteristics in order to be perceived by society in the way that we want to be.

Our social interactions may enable us to create this negotiated reality that we are to base our future interactions (performances) on, but they also rely on the early, unrefined presentations of ourselves to exist, which occur at the times when we have fewer interactions to base our performance on. So, in a way, our early interactions are stuck in a slowly unwinding – flawed – cycle between following social rules, and breaking them. This is perhaps why as we grow up we are constantly changing the manner in which we present ourselves as we gradually get a grasp on the way others in our social reality behave. Interactions “with others in face-to-face situations are highly flexible” and shouldn’t have rigid patterns assigned to them. Even when they display recognizable characteristic defining signs, we will be constantly modifying our interpretation of their presentation due to their inimitable behavior. The flawed aspect of the cycle, that enables us to break out of it, is simply derived from the fact that we, as humans, have the ability to –...
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