SOC 120 SCSU Comparative Analysis in Acting and Interacting in Workplace and Family Gathering Social Situations Essay

This exercise in ethnography is designed to help make your own impression management visible- and to help you see how integral it is to your everyday life. You will observe yourself acting and interacting in two different social situations and will then do a comparative analysis of your presentation of self in each setting. Observing ones’ own behavior is a variant of the ethnographic method you read about in Chapter 2, what one would call “autoethnography”.

Step 1: Observation
Choose two different situations that you will encounter this week in everyday life, and commit to observing yourself for 30 minutes as you participate in each. For example, you may observe yourself at work, at a family birthday celebration, at lunch with friends, in your math class, riding on the bus, or watching a basketball game. The two situations you choose don’t need to be extraordinary in any way; in fact, the more mundane, the better. But they should be markedly different from one another.

Step 2: Analysis
After observing yourself in two situations, consider the following questions.

  • What type of “front” do you encounter when you enter each situation?
  • How does the “region” or setting (location, scenery, and props) affect your presentation of self there?
  • Can you identify “backstage” and “frontstage” regions for each situation? Which of your activities are preparation and which are performance?
  • What type of “personal front” (appearance, manner, dress) do you bring to each situation?
  • How are facial expressions, body language, and so forth (“expressions given off”) different in each situation?
  • What kinds of things do you say (“expressions given”) in each situation?
  • How do you modify what you do and say in each situation? Are there things you say or do in one that would be inappropriate, strange, or even absurd in the other?
  • Who are you in each situation? Do you present a slightly different version of yourself in each? Why?

As you observe the minutest aspects of your interactions, you will probably discover that you perform somewhat different versions of yourself in the two situations. “Being a student,” for instance, might be very different from “being a boyfriend.”

A final Goffman-inspired question to ask is this: does engaging in impression management mean that we have no basic, unchanging self? If we bring different selves to different situations, what does that say about the idea of a “true self”? This issue is an important one, and I hope you use your mini research paper findings to pursue it in greater depth!

Finally, follow the descriptions in the Mini Research Paper Grading Rubrics on Canvas under Content for writing up a thesis style paper on your experience. Be sure to integrate theory and concepts from class to help make your argument. The material from chapters 1 and 4 in Conley, along with the PowerPoint lecture on Social Theory or, more likely, the lecture on Identity and Self will probably be most relevant and useful for constructing your paper’s argument.

Remember you don’t draw on everything from each reading and lecture. Instead, allow your observations combine with your knowledge of sociological theories and concepts to come up with an insightful thesis style argument. This may only include one or two theories or concepts total from all the above material, but if those are what can explain your observations best then that’s all you need!

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