Tags: goffman, theory, comedy, impression management, self-presentation, social interaction, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this clip from the popular British comedy television series of the same name, Mr. Bean attempts to cheat off a fellow student during an exam. So as to appear inconspicuous, Mr. Bean engages in impression management, a process in which social actors---either consciously or not---seek to influence the perceptions of other people by controlling information exchanged and exhibited during the social interaction. Erving Goffman emphasized that the process of impression management (and the closely related concept of self-presentation) is specific to a situational context. In this case, Mr. Bean attempts to regulate the social interaction in such a way that his classmates and professor do not suspect him of cheating; he does so by drawing upon behavior that we, as a society, have collectively deemed "test-taking behavior," appropriate for the situational context of a classroom exam. Such behavior deployed by Mr. Bean includes pretending to have a sudden epiphany of a correct answer, and feigning intense concentration by wrinkling his brow and sticking out the tip of his tongue. However, as time passes and Mr. Bean gets more desperate, his attempts to cheat become more extreme; as such, his ability to manage his fellow student's and professor's impressions of the situation become more tenuous, bordering on failure. Goffman says that when a social actor's attempts to present a desired impression is inconsistent with an audience's perception---that is, when the impression management process breaks down---embarrassment occurs. Instructors can encourage students to think about the great lengths we all go, like Mr. Bean, to manage people's impressions of ourselves in our everyday lives. Can students think of embarrassing moments in their own lives and apply theories of impression management and self-presentation to make sense of these awkward social interactions?
Submitted By: Stephanie K. Decker
Tags: class, crime/law/deviance, discourse/language, goffman, government/the state, inequality, knowledge, media, race/ethnicity, social mvmts/social change/resistance, theory, violence, collective action frames, politics of signification, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: What shall we name what is happening in London? While investigating gun crimes, police shot and killed Mark Duggan, a 29 year-old Black man who was carrying a loaded gun (though it should be said, he never fired the weapon on police). Catalyzed by Duggan's death, protests, looting, and destruction of public and private property have rapidly spread across London. Is it a riot, an uprising, a rebellion, a social movement, or is it an insurrection? Whatever frame we choose has important consequences for the shape of things to come. For instance, the word riot suggests disorganized destruction, whereas an insurrection suggests an organized effort against oppression. One frame will likely garner more support for this social upheaval than the other. In this clip, the BBC interviews Darcus Howe, a television journalist and long time grass-roots activist. At the 3:08 mark, Howe keys the current turmoil, which is spread throughout London, to that which took place in 1981 in Brixton. He then insists that what is happening in London is an "insurrection of the people." At 3:40, the BBC reporter appears to challenge Howe's credibility by naming him a rioter. "Mr. Howe," she interrupts, "if I could just ask you, you are not a stranger to riots yourself, I understand, are you?" Howe refuses this frame in his reply: "I have never taken part in a single riot. I've been on demonstrations that ended up in a conflict." The clip would work well with a class grappling with social movements and the importance of collective action frames. To quote Benford and Snow (2000, p. 613), the confrontation between Howe and the reporter is a rather vivid example of two signifying agents "actively engaged in the production and maintenance of meaning for constituents, antagonists, and bystanders or observers. [Signifying agents] are deeply embroiled, along with..local governments, and the state, in what has been referred to as a 'politics of signification' (Hall 1982)."
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Anthony Robles wrestles for the 2011 NCAA Championship
Tags: bodies, disability, goffman, sports, theory, master status, stereotypes, stigma, subtitles/CC, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: Anthony Robles is an Arizona State University student who won the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championship, despite having only one leg. His case is an interesting example of stigma (i.e. a social or individual attribute that is devalued and discredited in a particular social context). When looking at him, people are likely to place an immediate stigma on him (note that many videos and headlines refer to him as a "one-legged wrestler" rather than "wrestler"), discrediting his physical abilities and perhaps assuming a poor performance in competitive sports. As noted by Goffman, this link is done through stereotypes, rather than objective attributes, which becomes clear in this video showing his 7-1 victory in the championship match. The tendency to qualify him as a one-legged wrestler and continually comment on his disability, as these announcers do, suggests the way a disability is used to form one's master status. In other words, Robles' missing leg becomes his primary identifying characteristic, overshadowing all other markers of status. This clip can be used in class to discuss disability, stereotypes, and master status, but it would also be useful to use the clip as a means of discussing how people often resist the stigmas assigned to them.
Submitted By: Lia Karvounis
Tags: crime/law/deviance, goffman, theory, folkways, mores, norms, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: What happens when more than 250 Soc101 students do absolutely nothing in a public place for 15 minutes? Find out in this video and discover how doing nothing can teach us a lot about norms, deviance, and Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. This video would work well in an intro to sociology class, in a class on the sociology of crime/deviance, and even a social theory course. Better yet, watch the clip and then have your class do nothing on your campus. Note, this activity is based on “The Sociology of Doing Nothing: A Model ‘Adopt a Stigma in a Public Place’ Exercise” by Karen Bettez Halnon (2001) in Teaching Sociology.
Submitted By: Nathan Palmer
Tags: goffman, theory, ambiguity, breakdown, breaking frame, disruption, dramaturgy, frame alignment, frames, impression management, key, norms, reparation, symbolic interactionism, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Many students will be familiar with Minerva, Ohio Councilman Phil Davison's speech, in which he sought the nomination for Stark County Treasurer. In this viral clip, the unbridled enthusiasm and apparent anger expressed by Councilman Davison catch us off guard and strike many as inappropriate. But the fact that we, as the audience, have expectations that were violated suggests there is an underlying structure or script that regulates the speaker's demeanor in situations such as these. I would argue that Erving Goffman's work offers a useful conceptual framework for describing the situational structure environing Councilman Davison's speech, and the speech can be used in a class as a means of illustrating many of Goffman's theoretical concepts. For starters, an instructor might note that by applying a dramaturgical analysis, one can examine Davison's speech as more than a mere announcement. It is instead a performance, analogous to the kind one might pay to see at the theater. For example, there is a stage. Davison's suit and podium are his props. His handwritten speech is like a script, but it should be noted that there already exists a general kind of script for such speeches. Furthermore, one can use Davison's speech to engage Goffman's concept of impression management. How is Davison attempting to control people's impressions of him? What impressions is he "giving off," irrespective of his intentions? Goffman (1986, p. 10) discussed the notion of a frame, referring to the definitions of a situation. Frames orient people to a collective understanding of "what's going on" in a given situation, and there exists frame alignment when there is a consensus among all participants about appropriate behaviors in a given situation. A key, by contrast, is a set of conventions seemingly imported from one activity and applied to another with the aim of transforming the latter (p. 44). At one point, Davison attempts--perhaps unsuccessfully--to layer his speech with meaning by keying his approach to the job of County Treasurer to an act of war. At another point, he keys it to an aggressive game of football. Finally, an instructor can use this clip to emphasize Goffman's attention to breakdowns (breaking frame) and reparations. One could argue that Davison broke frame once his speech too closely resembled the kind of pep talk a player gets before a big game. The audience's embarrassment at being unable to save Davison's performance for him can be understood as a ritual reparation, paid as a consequence of the broken social order.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: goffman, theory, identity, institutionalization, resocialization, total institution, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this clip is from Frank Darabont's "The Shawshank Redemption" Brooks Hatlen, the prison librarian and one of the oldest inmates at Shawshank, reacts violently upon learning that he has been approved for release by the parole board. Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding subsequently engages in a discussion of what it means to be institutionalized. Drawing from this clip, students can be asked to discuss the characteristics of total institutions and how this leads to the concept of institutionalization as a dysfunction. Note that this clip can be successfully used in tandem with two additional clips. The first short clip, which is from "Full Metal Jacket" (here), depicts Marine recruits getting their heads shaved as a symbolic act meant to strip them of their former identities. In the second clip, also from "Full Metal Jacket" (here), the recruits' drill sergeant debases the recruits thereby further stripping them of their former identities.
Submitted By: James Noon
Tags: goffman, theory, war/military, identity, institutionalization, resocialization, total institution, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This clip is from Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" and depicts the recruits' first encounter with their drill sergeant. Here, through a series of debasements, the recruits' past identities are further eroded, and the recruits are told what is expected of them as they are resocialized into their new roles. At about 2:18 the drill sergeant ups the ante with homophobic and racist language, so instructors may want to stop the clip at this point. The clip is useful as a demonstration of Erving Goffman's concept of the total institution, and in particular, as a way of illustrating the way inmates undergo resocialization. Note that this clip can be successfully used in tandem with two additional clips. The first short clip, which is also from "Full Metal Jacket" (here), depicts Marine recruits getting their heads shaved as a symbolic act meant to strip them of their former identities. The second short clip, from "The Shawshank Redemption" (here), depicts the concept of institutionalization, when a prison inmate reacts violently after learning he has been approved for release by the parole board.
Submitted By: James Noon
Tags: goffman, theory, war/military, identity, institutionalization, total institution, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This clip is the opening sequence to Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket." The clip depicts Marine recruits at Parris Island, SC, getting their heads shaved and works well as a demonstration of Erving Goffman's concept of the total institution. Students can be asked to explain the purpose behind the head shaving act, which I see as both a means of making the recruits physically identical and as a symbolic act that strips them of their former identities. Note that this clip can be successfully used in tandem with two additional clips. The first short clip, which is also from "Full Metal Jacket" (here), depicts the drill sergeant further debasing soldiers, and the second short clip, from "The Shawshank Redemption" (here), depicts the concept of institutionalization, when a prison inmate reacts violently after learning he has been approved for release by the parole board.
Submitted By: James Noon
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