The term self-projection refers to the process whereby an individual reveals his own attributes through ascribing them to persons or objects within their environment (Morris 29). It is the projection of attributes that can either be positive or negative that constitutes the human psychological processes. This paper analyzes a sociological theory by Goffman and investigates the manner in which this theory is applied in the contemporary world.
The Goffman’s Dramaturgy Theory is chosen in this case, which is analyzed, and its application in the contemporary world determined (Goffman 59). It is a well-known sociological theoretical perspective that states the symbolic interactions within human beings. Either, it is used in the micro sociological processes that guide individual’s daily interactions. This theory was published in 1959, but it still has a significant role in the sociological processes. The paper discusses the theory from several points of view starting from the explanation of its key ideas. It then describes how the theory is used in contemporary sociological research. A research question is then framed, after which the theory is evaluated in relation to another theory.
The Dramaturgy theory provides a sociological theory that starts from symbolic interactions and is widely used in micro sociological accounts of public networking in daily living (Goffman 19). This term was coined by Erving Goffman from a theater, whereby he evolved the majority of the terminologies and varying ideas in a book he published in the year 1959. The book was titled Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. This theory argues that human actions are usually dependent on factors such as time, the audience and the place where the action is to take place. Goffman further argues that, in theaters, dramatic effects do emerge from the various immediate scenes that one presents to the audience. The theory creates metaphors that it uses to define the manner in which an individual presents himself to his audience on the basis of his values, audience expectations and the cultural norms. People are, therefore, to perceive themselves as play directors in a theater house where they then analyze Goffman’s theory from a dramatic point of view (Sandler, 45).
In dramaturgical sociology, it is disputed that people’s activity is conditional on time, place, and audience. Stated differently, Goffman claims that the self is a perception of who a person is; it is an acting effect that emerges from the proximate scene being presented. Goffman models a scenic metaphor in determining the manner in which a person presents himself to another person relying on cultural values, norms, and expectations. The aim of the self presentation is an admission from the audience by means of elaborately conducted performance (Bhatti 43). In the event that the presentation presents him in the appropriate manner, he will succeed in making the audience perceive him in the manner that he desires. This theory differs from other sociological theories in that it does not give an in-depth analysis of the causative effects to the differing human behaviors. Either, it analyzes the context with which humans carry out themselves. The theory further suggests that the human behavior is never static but keeps on changing with time as individuals interact with each other.
The dramaturgical model, through social interactions, analyzes the manner in which people live within their societies like actors performing on a stage (Kraft). The analysis concentrates on the individual role and status within the interactions. The status is usually considered a part of a play while the individual role the play’s script that offers the dialogue and the required actions for the characters. Goffman describes performances of every individual as the presentation of self through one’s efforts to create specific impressions in the minds of others, which in this case are the audience. Before interacting with the audience, the actor has to prepare a role or impression that he or she intends to express.
Use in Contemporary Sociological Research
The Dramaturgical theory is usually employed in the depiction of how social interactions to communicate power in a situation, whereby there are protagonists and antagonists who are in a serious competition to affect their audiences (Conn 28). The competition is usually done in stages that include front stage, back stage, outside stage and boundaries. At the front stage, the actors do perform through adhering to conventions that bring meaning to the audience. The back stage is where the actors do exist while the audience is not in existence. All the facts that might have been hidden at the front stage are usually presented here. The outside stage is where individuals are not involved in the play while the borders are restrictive measures to individual movements outside the region of play. The following research projects are used to highlight how Dramaturgical theory can be applied:
- Arlie Hochschild The Managed Heart. It describes the world of airline attendants..
- Kelly Kraft’s ethnographic study to employees in the Disney Store.
- Guy Oak’s study of insurance of sales people.
- Stephen Miller’s study of car salesmen.
All the above studies reveal that they comply with Goffman’s dramaturgical theory. In the above studies, all employees are found to play their roles in the manner they are supposed to play. The employees’ customers are considered to be the audience and generally expect employees to behave in a certain manner. In the event that the employees do not act in the manner that their customers expect them to, customers who are their audience will definitely be left confused. This will leave the audience with a negative feeling that might negatively impact the performances of the employees thus affect their commercial activities.
In The Managed Child, Arlie Hochschild mentions critical points that must be applied. The flight customers have an expectation that the attendants will always be kind and friendly to them. Either, their expectations are that the attendants are gracious and will offer services to the best of their knowledge. This expectation is met by these flight attendants (Hoch 83). In the Kelly Kraft’s study of employees in the Disney Stores, a result is similar to the Arlie Hochschild case. The atmosphere at this place is considered very important as it influences the manner in which the individuals carry out themselves. The shops at Disney Store create an adventurous atmosphere that is full of wonders. The company’s employees are forced to comply with the requirements within this atmosphere. The atmosphere requires employees to be kind hearted and friendly to customers as boring employees will not excite the customers that much. This will negatively impact on the customers of the stores. Through Dramaturgical theory, the Disney Stores can analyze the manner in which its employees present themselves and the impact it has on the company’s customers. This enables them to organize for training that focuses on focused on creating an atmosphere that will enable the employees present themselves according to the customers’ expectations.
In the Guy Oak’s study of insurance sales persons, aspects of dramaturgical theory is shown in that the study shows that the sales persons’ customers do not like it when the sales person emphasizes the commercial aspect of the property they are selling (Bhatti 43). The customers expect more emphasis to be done on aspects such as expertise or general advice to customers. The customer get excited at the thought of meeting a sales person who is aware of what he is doing and does it with lots of credibility. Stephen Miller’s study of car salesmen shows that it is important to give considerable energy to a sales person in order to establish an impression of who they are and what they can do for a customer. Car salesmen should present themselves in a manner that enables them determine what a customer wants and show that they understand their business.
All the studies show that dramaturgy is applied in the normal activities of individuals within their areas of operation. This is particularly as it helps in the determination of the manner in which the employees do act (Hoch 45). The customers usually expect employees to carry out themselves in certain degrees of acceptable behavior that is important in the determination of their personalities thus affecting the manner in which they present themselves and the effect it has on the customers. The car or insurance sales persons are expected to dress decently to become appealing to their customers. Otherwise, the customers will have some doubts lingering in their minds about these sales persons. The employees are also expected to pronounce their words according to some predetermined script within their minds by their customers. The dramaturgical theory, therefore, plays an important role in the determination of the type of training that the employees should get and the manner in which they need to connect with their customers.
Frame of a Research Question
After a thorough analysis of the theory and its application in the day to day operations of the employees of various organizations, the study can further analyze employee behavior in a fixed position of a job performed within a specific time. It would be useful to develop a research question that will study the employee behavior in the event that they change jobs from one employer to the next (Hoch 67). It could also study the behavior if they are promoted from their current job position to a higher ranking position than before. These developments will ensure that the employees come into contact with a totally new audience that might be different from the ones that are familiar.
The research questions that can be developed and investigated are as stated below:
- What are the difficulties that an employee faces when they are promoted to positions of higher levels or when they totally change jobs from one employer to the other? The specific aspects to study are:
- Do the employees have difficulties in learning their new roles within the new job?
- Do the employees face difficulties in forgetting the roles they played in their previous jobs or position?
- Is there evidence suggesting that an employee benefits from hopping from one job to the other?
- Are the employees flexible enough to changes and what will be the important characteristics to succeed in a new job?
- Are the employees capable of acting in a totally independent manner?
- What are the possible sociological effects on employees who regularly change jobs and those that do not change jobs regularly?
Evaluation of the Theory
Goffman’s dramaturgical theory is widely used in sociological processes. This theory is acceptable to many sociologists and in this study; it can be analyzed in relation to another theory by Menno Ter Braak who is a Dutch sociologist (Sandler). Ter Braak argues in his theory that peoples’ behavior results from the manner in which they tend to depend on each other. This argument differs significantly from the assertions of Goffman in his theory of dramaturgy (Kraft,34). In Ter Braak argues that peoples’ behavior is as a result of their interaction with one another. This shows that it differs with dramaturgy theory in that it does not comply with the actor’s role on the stage while Goffman’s theory does. Ter Braak’s theory also differs with Goffman’s theory in that it does not believe in behavior of a group. According to this theory, everyone is different and, therefore, can react in a different way compared to the other. Therefore by acting differently, the individuals cannot be said to act in a group as their actions will definitely be different from each other. The dramaturgy theory, on the other hand, believes that individuals are capable of acting as a group since they interact with one another thus they tend to influence each other’s behavior.
Critics argue that it might be difficult to determine whether Goffman’s theory of dramaturgy is better than Ter Braak’s theory. Either, the above mentioned studies of the flight attendants, insurance sales people, car sales people and Disney Store workers show that peoples’ group behavior is very important. At times, it might also be important to analyze people’s behavior at the individual level and, therefore, the theory should be employed within the contexts that fit its usage.