A Critical Introduction to Media and Communication Theory
5. Observing the Interaction Order Through Goffman’s Eyes
c h a p t e r f i v e Observing the Interaction Order Through Goffman’s Eyes1 Drawing Patterns How is it possible to catch sight of the interaction order as Goﬀman did? He had a sharp eye for all too evanescent interactions, and used a subtle pen to describe them in sharp detail. He also had a stunning capacity to build conceptual general- izations from bits and pieces of observational data he collected, whether primary data (based on his own fieldwork) or secondary (based on reports of others). Ap- plying his concepts to the world around us is not as easy as it may appear, and re- quires training. The world resists, so to speak. Very often, students we have sent into the field come back and tell us there is nothing to see. In fact, the problem is that there is just too much to see. One needs to learn to see, or rather to see anew. Chapter 4 emphasized the significance of patterns for Goﬀman: he viewed their discovery as one of his central goals. As a way to enter smoothly into Goﬀman’s vi- sion of the social world, to see through his eyes as it were, we oﬀer here a very sim- ple technique for discovering interactional patterns: drawing silhouettes based on photographs. Why not use photographs directly? Pictures are so easy to take these days, so easy even to take inconspicuously, with a tiny camera, a smartphone, or whatever device....
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