Chapter 4

Fourth Edition
Chapter 4: Social Interaction and Everyday Life in the
Age of the Internet
Social Media and Social Interaction
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Microsociology: Social interaction
• Microsociology is an area that was first
developed by Erving Goffman.
• He took the belief that small aspects of social
life, not just major institutions, matter, and
turned it into a systematic theoretical
perspective and research methodology.
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• Goffman insisted that we look at all parts of
human interaction and developed the
dramaturgical perspective.
• This approach shows how we construct,
maintain, and/or revise our identities in
interaction with others.
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Why microsociology matters
Goffman indicated at least three reasons why
studying seemingly trivial aspects of social
life matter:
1. Our everyday routines provide (and illustrate) the
structure of our lives.
2. Interactions reveal the importance of human agency.
3. Interactions can tell us a lot about our larger society.
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Nonverbal communication
• Nonverbal communication includes any
exchange of information without speaking:
– Face and gesture
– E-mail and other online communication
– Use of “props” and setting
– Personal space
– Presentation of self
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Impression management
• To explicate his perspective on social interaction,
Goffman wrote The Presentation of Self in
Everyday Life.
• He outlined the way in which social life was, in
its essence, theater:
– We play roles for audiences.
– We inhabit stages and sets.
– We make use of props and scripts.
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Impression management
• An important part of all interactions is to attempt
to actively control the way others perceive you.
• This is the heart of impression management, and
it is crucial to identity construction.
• Different roles we play require different
impression management; some impression
management is sincere and some is cynical.
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Impression management: Costume
• Every day each of us starts by getting dressed,
which is a crucial piece of impression
• With what we wear, we reveal a great deal of
social information alluding to class, subculture,
sexuality, interests, and sometimes even politics
or ideas.
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Types of interaction
• There are two basic types of interaction: focused
and unfocused.
• Focused interactions, or encounters, are those
where we directly engage someone.
• Unfocused interactions are those where we are
present with others but do not communicate
directly with them.
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Audience segregation
• Because we all play different roles and these
different roles require different forms of
impression management, we often attempt to
keep our audiences segregated.
• In certain types of online communication (e.g.,
Facebook), this is more difficult, yet it is
critically important.
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Online vs. face-to-face interactions
• How are online interactions different from face-toface interactions?
• What’s missing?
• What can we do differently on Facebook than in
• What are the social effects of online interaction on
individuals? On society?
• Will online communication replace face-to-face
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Stacy Snyder was an aspiring teacher who was about to
graduate from Millersville University’s School of
Education in 2006.
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Without context: what does it mean?
• Part of examining social interaction is to try to
determine meaning even when it is unspoken.
• Read these lines: What do they mean?
A: I have a fourteen-year-old son.
B: Well, that’s all right.
A: I also have a dog.
B: Oh, I’m sorry.
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Context matters
• We learn to make sense of what people say not
only through words but also through what your
textbook calls shared understandings.
• Communication, then, is based not only on
what we say, gesture, and do, but also on a set
of shared cultural understandings.
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• Harold Garfinkel introduced the study of how
we make sense of interactions and called this
approach ethnomethodology.
• Ethno means folk, or lay, so ethnomethodology
means understanding how everyday people
make sense of interactions.
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Ethnomethodology in practice
• Garfinkel had his students test the idea of
background expectancies by having his
students challenge them.
• Example of challenges:
– Answering the question “How are you?” with a
complete response or a query for specification.
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Studying talk
• It is also important to look at the actual talk
taking place in interactions.
• How we converse—how we actually use
words—is foundational to constructing and
maintaining a stable, comprehensible social
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Conversation analysis
• Conversation analysis is a research method
wherein all aspects of interaction are noted and
assessed for meaning.
• The words themselves, timing, order, and even
the status of participants are all examined.
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Micro-macro linkage
• Oftentimes, looking at micro-level interactions
can reveal patterns in the society at large.
• Ethnographic studies have, for example,
illuminated racial and gender inequalities, fear
of the homeless, and power structures in
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Why microsociology matters
• Studying social interaction is important
because it allows us to learn at the level of
the everyday and then make connections
• Good microsociology also tells us something
about how a society is structured and
restructured in everyday interactions.
• Microsociology offers “thick description.”
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Time and space
• Social life is divided temporally.
– For example, our days, weeks, and even months are
organized in such a way that we know what to
expect on a July day versus a December day.
• Social life is divided spatially.
– For example, our lives are also organized so that
we know that at college there are certain
expectations that are different in the classroom than
the dorm room.
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How the Internet affects proximity
• Now that we can interact with people
thousands of miles away that we may never
see, time and space function a bit differently.
• What is the nature of these “devoiced”
• Does the proximity gained via the Internet
improve or detract from human interactions?
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This concludes the Lecture
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Chapter 4: Social Interaction and Everyday Life in the Age of the Internet
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Clicker Questions
1. Marcie and Pat were out to dinner on a blind date. After
dessert, Marcie made eye contact with and waved over the
server, raising her hand out to the side of the table in order to
indicate that she would be taking care of the bill. Marcie’s
cues to the server are all examples of
a. ethnomethodology.
b. regionalization.
c. nonverbal communication.
d. response cries.
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Clicker Questions
2. Ethnomethodology studies which of the following?
a. conversations in a café
b. voting patterns in presidential elections
c. rates of drug use among college students
d. cross-national infant mortality rates
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Clicker Questions
3. Examining all facets of a conversation for meaning—from the
smallest filler words (such as umm and ah) to the precise
timing of interchanges (including pauses, interruptions, and
overlaps) is called
a. interactional vandalism.
b. focused interaction.
c. compulsion of proximity.
d. conversation analysis.
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Clicker Questions
4. When someone attends a business meeting, he or she chooses
to wear a suit and is on his or her best behavior. What concept
from the text is he or she enacting?
a. focused interaction
b. unfocused interaction
c. impression management
d. interactional vandalism
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Clicker Questions
5. In a society such as our own, many of the people with
whom we come in contact over the course of a given day
are strangers. What is the technique we use to
communicate to a stranger that we are not suspicious of or
hostile to him or her and that we do not wish to avoid
a. microsociology
b. civil inattention
c. social interaction
d. nonverbal communication
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