Symbolic Interactionism, Dramatism, & Narrative Theory

Symbolic Interactionism,
Dramatism, & Narrative Theory
• It’s a dance--communication is, we work it
• We create signs, symbols, meanings
messages, discourses, though not a waltz
• Interactionists claim it’s a tango, never done
by just one person
More Introduction
• There’s structure, but it’s dam building or barn
• It’s on the job or at the party’s bunch bowl that
communication is constructed. Messages and even
meanings are constructed
• Past theories had a strong psychologically bases.
• These have a sociologically bases.
Even More Introduction
• Watch Children at play--they create all sorts
of symbols, meaning games, dances
• Dramatististic/Narrative approaches claim
that interactionism produces dramas/stories.
• Key theorists: Bormann, Burke, Fisher
The Assumptions of the
Symbolic Interactionists
• Human understanding is achieved by assigning meaning to
• Meanings are learned in interactions.
– e.g. Texas 55
• All social structures and institutions are created by
interaction between individuals.
– e.g. MSU-Billings
More on Assumptions
• Social realities are created and recreated by
– Burkes stove
• Mind is a mirror of interaction between
– Thoughts reflect life in society or your looking
at your/our mind
More on Assumptions
• Behavior is enacted in the social group
through interaction. (Created during
– ex. Acting out or “alone I would never . . .”
• Behavior can only be understood by
ascertaining the individual’s meanings for
the behavior and the meaning is in the
symbolic interaction mirror, thus motive
So . . .
• Follows nicely from systems theory
• Families and stories
– Religion and my family
• Marketing
• Chaining, Fantasy Themes, Rhetorical
• Cultures
First Ernest Bormann
• Convergence Theory
• Studied Group Communication--Bales and
Yale U. ‘72
• “Then one day while looking at coherence
in groups . . .”
More on Bormann
• Chaining
• Peoples visions of reality formed by stories
created interaction
• Fantasy Themes are stories told in small
• Fantasy Themes get chained out in society
Fantasy Themes
• Cheyenne Chronicle
– Manifest Destiny
• Your best friends
• Mayoral Elections
– e.g. Cragan and Shields
• Sonja and the ERA
Bormann Applied
• Marketing or how to make money with
• The Iowa Firm
Kenneth Burke
• The Unending Conversation
• A little background and some fun
Burke’s Ideas
• Wide ranging powerful theory of symbols
and interaction
• Distinguishes action (purposeful or choice)
from motion or non-purposeful
communication e.g. animals
• Action involves symbol use
• Reality is mediated through symbols and
their meanings
• Symbols expiate guilt
• Guilt is caused by the negative or the
proscriptive nature of language
• Guilt is caused by the perception of
imperfection or the perfection principle
• Perfection is also caused by social hierarchy
• It leads to mystification
More on Burke
• Major function of communication is to rid
ourselves of guilt
• Communication involves consubstantiality
or sharing of substance
• Communication and persuasion are
increased when identification results
between people
More on Burke
• Three kinds of identification
– Material--objects ex. fishing
– Idealistic--ideas ex. Religion
– Formal--forms of communication e.g. novels
And More on Burke
• Communication can also result in division
or separation between people
• Mystification occurs when one identifies
with a charismatic person much higher in
the hierarchy
• Strategies are used to achieve identification
or division
Even More on Burke
• Actions using symbols results in drama
• To analysis dramas he uses the pentad
Act=what is done
Agent=who done it
Scene=where it was done
Agency=vehicle through which the act is
– Purpose= reason for the act
Lets do one . . .
• I kings 3:16 “The Wise King”
Weighing Ratios
• Which of the elements is dominant?
• Compare and contrast through a calculus
• So, which element is dominant?
Now for a Philosophy
• Corresponding philosophic terminology
What about you and me?
• Would you analysis your own
• How could you?
• Homo Narran
• All rationality is based on narrative
• Persuasion is based on the acceptance of
good reasons
• Two Criteria for judging stories
– Coherence--Holds together
– Fidelity--Rings true
Let’s tell a story
• Once upon a time . . .