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Goffman The Interaction Order Notes

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Erving Goffman - The Interaction Order


Social interaction = that which transpires in social situations; environments in which multiple individuals are physically in each other's presence (or phone etc)
○ this approach means that macro structures/distinctions are initially irrelevant
○ the theoretical justification of the interaction order is that its contained elements fit together better than with elements outside the order Most of our lives is spend in the presence of other people - socially situated
○ the consequences of our social interaction have been treated as effects of social structures e.g. class, race, gender, etc
○ in fact we need to explore what these effects have in common, so that we can categorise the social interaction that leads to them What are the characteristics of the interaction order?
○ engrossment, involvement and states of participants
○ face-to-face interaction seems rooted in a universal precondition of social life
○ we are able to interpret behaviour as pointing to intentions
○ individuals are able to share a joint focus of attention, allowing coordination. speech makes this way more efficient
○ individuals can be identified by individual (unique impression based on appearance, tone, name etc) or categoric (placement in categories e.g. class) identification
○ interactions places us in danger, so we may make deals to ensure our safety e.g. submit to a coercive power
■ but interaction also enables us, often through the same mechanisms (sex, violence) that can threaten us
○ similar properties/patterns of interaction in many diverse social situations
○ a cognitive relation with those present, that allows us to make judgements about how to interact and hence behave meaningfully The interactive order is in fact orderly, in virtue of 'a large base of shared cognitive presuppositions' There are two common explanations for the interactive order
○ the contract model - participants pay a small price and obtain a large convenience
○ the consensus model - it it seen as a product of normative consensus. Individuals take for granted rules that they nevertheless consider just
■ but neither tells us anything about the effects of interactive order, only the motive
■ in any case, interactive order can survive systematic violation
● though it may be in the individual's interest to convince others to maintain the order, it is not necessarily in his own
■ do we really believe that individuals always get more from the order than they lose? e.g. disadvantaged groups
● if not, why do they generally uphold it In spite of unequal distribution of rights and risk in the interactive order, there is a traffic of use which facilitates a diversity of projects
○ but the fact that it is predicated on rules raises questions over enforcement
■ however, the interactive order existed before states What are the basic substantive units of the interactive order?
○ persons, groups of persons, files/processions/queues
○ contact, wherever an individual comes into another's response presence
○ informal arrangements where individuals come together and talk, act interdependently

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