1. When performing a role, the social player may be considered as occupying a position along a continuum from "cynical" to "sincere." The cynical player believes that he is lying. He is aware that he is merely playing a role and projecting something other than his own personal truth. The sincere player, on the other hand, believes wholeheartedly in his role. If he does not believe that it is his true self, then he believes it is a truth which he is trying to achieve. I will draw examples of two such polar players from the modern Batman films. James Gordon is the sincere Sergeant/Commissioner of the Gotham Police Department. Everyone knows that he is a "straight man" working for the renewal of Gotham. He doesn't maintain any false pretenses. He keeps people's secrets, he loves his family, and does his job. There's no other face to his story. A cynic would be Bruce Wayne. The role that Bruce Wayne plays is that of a fun-loving, indulgent, well-meaning billionaire. His true self, however, is Batman--a serious, crime-fighting hero. Of course, not everyone exists as a perfect cynic or perfectly sincere person. Many people exist along the continuum, or change places throughout their life. For example, Officer Ramirez (in the Dark Knight) starts out as on honest cop, but this turns into a façade when she begins accepting bribes to pay her mother's hospital bills.
2. As I have hinted, Goffman really uses the idea of interaction as role-taking. Thus, every interaction is a "performance." Those interacting are playing parts. They are doing this amongst physical context such as props and setting, which are called the "front." The front also consists of things attached to the actor, such as appearance and body language, which are specified as the "personal front." Personal front can then be divided into (a) "appearance" and (b) "manner." Appearance reflects social status and social context. For example, someone wearing a suit is probably at a formal event, and the quality or style of their suit probably says something about their social class. Manner, on the other hand, reveals what role a person expects to play in a situation. Someone who makes eye contact with you probably wants to engage in conversation. Goffman uses more refined examples of how posture can indicate whether you intend to lead or follow in a conversation. We can apply all of these terms to Batman. Whenever he does anything social he is performing. His front is very indicative of his performance. If he is hosting a fundraiser, he will be in his penthouse. If he is fighting crime, he will be in dirty alleys and dark buildings. He uses props such as his armour and Bat-gear, fine cars, and ostentatious displays of wealth (such as buying restaurants and absconding with entire ballet casts). His appearance includes all black armour, a cape, and a mask, as well as a suit and tie. His manner might include raising his voice to indicate he is about to give a speech, not punching a criminal to indicate that it is their turn to speak, or getting up from the floor to indicate he is not done fighting.
3. Dramatic realization is simply the symbolic expression of an activity. It can be convenient, such as with an NFL athlete, whose training and games are broadcast, to rather inconvenient, as with secretaries or researchers who do a lot of independent, behind-the-scenes work. In the case of such persons, effort must be made to communicate their role. A researcher must give a presentation about his work; the secretary probably keeps a tidy desk and professional appearance to make up for the invisibility of financing and scheduling. When the worker must put a large amount of effort into the dramatization (rather than achievement) of their role, we encounter the "dilemma of expression versus action." Someone trying to get funding for a project or filling out applications for jobs might feel they suffer this dilemma. What they want is to be developing their project or working, but instead they are practicing interviews, writing essays, and manipulating their credentials.
4. Performances present an ideal in two ways. First, they tend to represent an ideal type. Second, they tend to represent an ideal toward which the actors are striving. Since the ideals we choose are socially influenced, the performance of them is both a reaffirmation and celebration of society.
The ritual of punishment, to relate back to Durkheim, is a celebration of society. Repressive punishment in particular amends offenses by bringing the community together in honor of the very ideals which were injured. At a public hanging, someone who committed adultery is reviled and killed while the onlookers stand together and build their respect for the ideal of celibacy and loyalty. This performance presents an ideal because many people break the various legal, religious, and unwritten laws regarding sexual intercourse, but only one of them is being hanged. Having sex with only one person is something of a utopian idea, yet it is also an ideal society encourages us to follow.
1. Symbolic Interactionism rests on two concepts: symbols and interpretation. Blumer's big idea here is that the distinction between humanity and the rest of the animal kingdom is that between the events of stimulus and response we insert a process of reflection. Rather than simply reacting to something we sense, we take time to analyze meanings. Take a game of catch. Without the conscious mind engaged, we would naturally respond to an incoming, high-speed object by ducking out of its path. With our minds engaged, however, we can realize that the object is a ball and that we are expected to catch it. All of conscious life is interpreted in this way. To bring it back to Mead, the original author of symbolic interactionism, interpretation is the process carried out by the Me. Symbolic Interaction is so significant because through it we apply subjective meanings to everything. This deviates from functionalism by declaring that the individual is not simply reacting to social stimuli, and does not have purely mathematical actions. In Functionalism, people are only media through which the social is expressed and upon which it acts. With symbolic interactionism, the individual has more power to comprehend and affect the social.
2. Blumer describes 4 central conceptions of symbolic interaction in the context of their methodological implications. They are...
a. People interpret and act on the symbols around them. This includes language and also context. It means that our decisions are affected by everything around us, from a welcome mat to architecture. The implication here is that when researching, we cannot fathom the motives and meanings of someone's actions without knowing what was going on around them. To try to 'objectively' analyze actions is foolish, because actions are defined in a subjective context.
b. Interaction is an interpretive process. I have already explained this. The point is, to research interaction, one must understand the interpretation. It is not enough to know that Bob asked Jillian how her mother was doing and that she responded 'fine.' We need to know what Bob meant by his question, how Jillian interpreted it, and what she meant by her response.
c. Everyone interprets situations in their own way. This means that researchers need to exercise caution not to assume the subject of their research thinks like them.
d. Society is dynamic. Things are always happening, people are always changing and acting, and the networking of all of this into society is likewise an unstable, evolving entity. Here Blumer is making his point that one era's perfect social theories may not apply to the next era, and that we need to adapt and shift with society rather than try to reconcile outdated theories.
Blumer's four conceptions create a micro-sociological theory which gives a lot more importance to context and individual interpretation than any other theorist. It's micro-focus on the individual sets it in stark contrast to macro-scale theories. It is differentiated from other micro theories in that it sets out only one vague theory of symbolic interactionism, but puts a lot of emphasis on the process and application of research.