Micro-interactionism The legacy of Pragmatism. Cardinal numbers of Guaraní (language of indigenous...

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Transcript of Micro-interactionism The legacy of Pragmatism. Cardinal numbers of Guaraní (language of indigenous...

  • Slide 1
  • Micro-interactionism The legacy of Pragmatism
  • Slide 2
  • Cardinal numbers of Guaran (language of indigenous Paraguayans) 1: pete 2: moki 3: mbohapy 4: irundy 5: po 6: pote 7: 8: pohapy 9: porundy 10: pa 11: pate 12: paki 13: pahapy 14: 15: papo 16: 17: papoki 18: papohapy 19: paporundy 20: mokipa Can you fill in the blanks?
  • Slide 3
  • From structure to agency structuralists Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) -Linguistic Unlocked the code of ancient languages Claude Lvi-Strauss (born 1908) -Anthropology Found hidden patterns of diverse myths
  • Slide 4
  • Emergence of structuralism in sociology Karl Marx [People] make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past. (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852) Adolescent Karl: But mom, I want to be an individual! Just like everybody else!
  • Slide 5
  • Structure vs. Agency What do YOU think? Are our actions constrained by limits set in place by others so much so that our path in life is narrow and predictable? Or Do we have the ability to navigate the barriers in our way so that we can forge our own path? What might microinteractionists think?
  • Slide 6
  • Thought exercise Consider a maze: What are your options? What are your limitations?
  • Slide 7
  • Concrete barriers vs. Path of least resistance Question: Who creates the structure? -What might microinteractionists think? How does structure confine, limit, and determine our fate?
  • Slide 8
  • The legacy of Pragmatism truth is determined by the practical consequences of our actions Challenges the idea that objects and ideas have fixed meanings Explains how humans use symbols to communicate and interact Identifies the existence of multiple social selves
  • Slide 9
  • Charles Sanders Pierce Born 1839, died 1914 Mathematician, scientist, philosopher Things are true because we believe them to be true. The meaning of objects and actions are not fixed a priori (in Latin, from the former)
  • Slide 10
  • Thought exercise A chair What is this thing? How do you know? Does it mean the same thing to everyone? How about a carpenter, a weary traveler, a cowboy in a bar fight?
  • Slide 11
  • What a pragmatist might say: The objective reality, the fixed meaning of a chair, depends on the practical consequences of chairs in everyday life. Chairs are for sitting, until the day when people know longer sit in them; at that point, their meaning changes. If meanings were fixed and unchanging, this wouldnt happen.
  • Slide 12
  • Use of symbols We can only communicate via symbols. Communication, therefore, is the use of signs and symbols between people (semiotics = study of signs and symbols). Who determines meaning? Us. Humans.
  • Slide 13
  • Symbols only make sense in relation to other symbols (just like words only make sense in relation to other words). A chair means what it does because we agree that it does. In a sociological sense, it not only takes two to tango, it takes two to make meaning. The symbol of a chair only makes sense in relation to other symbols that represent things and actions, such as: to sit and furniture. Pragmatists and symbols
  • Slide 14
  • Pragmatists and meaning If symbols only make sense in relation to other symbols, then our social actions only make sense in relation to the actions of others. We determine what actions to take by predicting and anticipating how others will respond. The meaning of our own actions is therefore partly determined by how others react to us.
  • Slide 15
  • Charles Horton Cooley Born 1864, died 1929 Most famous idea: looking glass self How do you see yourself through eyes of others? Thought exercise: picking out your clothes in the morning
  • Slide 16
  • William James Born 1842, died 1910 Offered a theoretical bridge between Idealism and Pragmatism Argued for the existence of multiple social selves - All guided by a unitary self (soul) Thought exercise: your social self in your parents home vs a campus party.
  • Slide 17
  • George Herbert Mead Born 1863, died 1931 Published little, but his ideas were very influential (basis of Blumers symbolic interactionism). Contribution: the social mind Role of games The generalized other The me and I of the self
  • Slide 18
  • Generalized other We account for the generalized other in our own thoughts and actions. Allows us to interact socially even when we are thinking by ourselves. Awareness of others helps us make sense of our own identity (because our own self only makes sense in relation to that of others).
  • Slide 19
  • How can pragmatism help us understand the tension between structure and agency? In order to understand why people do what they do, we need to have an idea of how they make decisions and what guides their actions (i.e., why do they navigate the structure the way they do?).
  • Slide 20
  • Phenomenology The study of phenomena. More specifically, the study of how people subjectively interpret, experience, and assign meaning to phenomena.
  • Slide 21
  • Phenomenology cont. Lightning bolt exercise How can it be interpreted objectively and subjectively? meteorologist vs. cave dweller
  • Slide 22
  • Alfred Schutz Born 1899, died 1959 Part time banker Influenced by Webers concept of verstehen Our understanding of the social world is subjective Signs, symbols, and gestures do not have a universal meaning
  • Slide 23
  • Webers woodcutter You see a person chopping wood in the distance What are they thinking? What are they trying to accomplish? What is their motive?
  • Slide 24
  • Subjective understanding What are the clues you use to better understand the woodcutter? Put yourself in their position (take their role) Interpret contextual clues (signs, symbols, and gestures) Superimpose your own experiences and motivations.
  • Slide 25
  • Limits of subjective understanding The subjective meaning that the interpreter does grasp is at best an approximation to the sign-users intended meaning, but never that meaning itself, for ones knowledge of another persons perspective is always necessarily limited. For exactly the same reason, the person who expresses himself in signs is never quite sure of how [they are] being understood (p.37).
  • Slide 26
  • How can phenomenology help us understand the tension between structure and agency? If the meaning of signs, symbols, and gestures can vary within a given structure depending on the context, then the way we act towards them may also change. Question: under what conditions might we expect individuals to exercise their agency differently within the same structure? Ex: university registrar
  • Slide 27
  • Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckman Published in 1966 Made famous the (now ubiquitous) term social construction Their theory answers the question: where did our social reality come from? Who made the structure we now navigate? their answer: us!
  • Slide 28
  • Social Construction of Institutions Begin as merely habitualized actions among people Patterned actions are first taken-for- granted until they eventually harden and thicken (p.47)
  • Slide 29
  • Social Construction of Institutions cont. Interaction rules that serve as the basis of institutions were originally a conscious agreement among actors. However, over time, people do not question their origin. Since they had no part in shaping it, it confronts them as a given reality that, like nature, is opaque in places at least (p.46-7). With age, institutions become more rigid and inflexibility it becomes real in an ever more massive way and it can no longer be changed so readily (p.46).
  • Slide 30
  • Thomas theorem "If [humans] define situations as real, they are real in their consequences. William I. Thomas The child in America: Behavior problems and programs. (1928) Question: Have you ever witnessed the social construction of an institution? If so, what have been the real consequences for people who conform/deviate from the institution?
  • Slide 31
  • Herbert Blumer Born 1900, died 1987 Played professional football with now defunct Chicago Cardinals Pupil of George H. Mead Coined the term Symbolic Interactionism and characterized the theory as a summary of Meads ideas
  • Slide 32
  • Symbolic Interactionism "Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings that the things have for them" "The meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with [others]." "These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretive process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounters."
  • Slide 33
  • Why is Blumer important? Symbolic interactionism gives sociologists a framework for understanding why people navigate the prevailing social structure the way we do. When people are given two, seemingly, equal choices, why pick one over the other? It depends on how THEY interpret the options in front of them. We need to see the world through THEIR eyes, instead of imposing our own ideas upon them.
  • Slide 34
  • Blumers methodological position Quantitative vs. Qualitative research Which might Blumer prefer? Why?
  • Slide 35
  • Respect the empirical world If the scholar wishes to understand the action of people it is necessary for him to see their objects as they see them. Failure to see their objects as they see them, or a substitution of his meanings of the objects for their meanings, is the gravest kind of error that the social scientist can commit (p.69).
  • Slide 36
  • Erving Goffman Born 1922, died 1982 Studied under Everett Hughes at Chicago (a colleague of Blumer) Most famous contribution: dramaturgy Argued for a renewed focus back on the influence of structure on everyday interactions.
  • Slide 37
  • Dramaturgy Ordinary social intercourse is itself put together as a scene is put together, by the exchange of dramatically inflated actions, counter-actions, and terminating replies. Scripts even in the hands of unpracticed players can come to life because life itself is a dramatically enacted thing. All the world is not, of course, a stage, but the crucial ways in which it isnt are not easy to specify (p. 64).
  • Slide 38
  • Dramaturgy cont. Front stage Back stage Parking lots and cloak rooms Authentic vs Cynical presentations of self
  • Slide 39
  • Onion or artichoke According to Goffman, is their a true self? Is there a director behind the scenes instructing all the actors? Or Are there as many selves as there are stages?