Sociologist Erving Goffman developed the concept of dramaturgy, this is the concept that life is like a never-ending play in which people are actor. Goffman believed that when we are born, we are plunged onto a stage called everyday life, and that our socialization consists of learning how to play our assigned roles from watching & interacting with other people. We perform our roles in the company of others, who are in turn are performing their roles in interaction with us. Goffman believed that whatever we do, we are playing out some role on the stage of life. Front Stage & Back Stage
The performance takes place in the front stage, where different props are used, making possible a specific type of interaction and creating a specific picture of the self. The front stage is generally fixed and defines a situation. It consists of the setting, i.e. the physical scene, and the personal front, i.e. the items of expressive equipment that the audience expects of the performer. The personal front is divided into appearance, i.e. the items that reveal the actor’s social status, and manner, i.e. the role which the performer expects to play. In the backstage, the preparations for the front stage performance are made, the trash of performances is there taken care of, actors prepare and rehearse their roles, and they can meet there before and after the performance Public and private life is sustained by the ritual performances of the everyday. In this interaction process the self is created and manipulated. The self-moves between front stage and back stage. On the front stage of publicity, the self uses more props and works harder on the right presentation of self than in the back stage of privacy. Even in the most informal settings, Goffman argues, there is a ritual structure, which is more, goes much further, than the meeting itself. In the backstage, as suggested, the front stage performances are prepared, and this space is therefore in a way more "authentic", more private and less social. Impression Management
The term Impression Management was invented by Goffman. This refers to our desire to manipulate others’ impressions of us on the front stage. According to Goffman, we use various means, called sign vehicles, to present ourselves to others. The most commonly employed sign vehicles are the following: •
Manner of interacting
The social setting is the physical place where interaction takes place, for example in the local shop or an interview. How we arrange our spaces, and what we put in them, expresses a lot of information about us for example some one who lives in a big house with security guards and security camera conveys the message that they are very important, wealthy, and powerful, and probably that uninvited visitors should stay away. On the other hand, the owner of a house with no fence, lots of lights, and a welcome mat would seem much more inviting but perhaps not as rich or powerful. How we decorate our settings, or what props we use, also gives clues to how we want people to think of us for example when a professor displays her degrees and certificates on the wall of her office, she communicates that she wants to be viewed as a credible authority in her chosen field. When people decorate offices, hang pictures in clinics, or display artwork in their homes, they are using props to convey information about how they want others to see them. For example in the interview process the interview room maybe sparse, have no pictures hanging on the wall or have company motto’s displayed , 2 or 3 chairs & a table maybe all that is in the room. On the other hand the act of shopping, shopping centres advertise brands, have cafes have seating areas etc. Appearance
Our appearance also speaks volumes about us. People’s first impressions are based almost exclusively on appearance. Clothing: The clothing we wear tells others whether we are rich or poor, whether we take...
References: Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Doubleday: Garden City, New York, 1959.
Mead’s Children, II:ERVING GOFFMAN AND THE DRAMATURGY OF THE SELF
CLASSICAL SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY:
A Review of Themes, Concepts, and Perspectives (Part II) January 1999
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