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Publicly displaying greeting cards and art by relatives and friends would be examples.

Tools displayed in the home of someone who uses them professionally would be an example. A mixture of the indigenous and cosmopolitan may say as much about reference groups and attitudes to the local society as about prestige. Examples would include: crutches, canes, books in Braille, syringes. This can be accomplished in part by displaying disidentifying symbols, objects which disassociate a person from any undesired attribute. The former is the original use objects are intended to have by their makers; the latter is any unintended use such as a lamp fashioned out of discarded plumbing.

Temporal heterogeneity is the mixing of objects manufactured at different times […] They can be assessed with respect to two extremes: miniaturization and monumentality. Even if each individual object can be viewed as being endowed with intrinsic qualities, it should not be forgotten that objects are never perceived in isolation. It is therefore necessary to set forth a secondary category of dimensions of objects: that of display syntax or how objects are displayed in relation to each other.

The decoupling of these activities and management of the consequent gaps is thus a responsibility of, and dilemma for, the staff of such organizations. Goffman may have been sardonic about psychiatry, but he was not hostile to its practitioners. This is indicated by his acknowledgment of the intellectual openness and support of psychiatric staff members, and the receptivity that they accorded to his study.

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What they produced were data about rule following and rule breaking rather than diagnoses with a material grounding. Laing, and others. His work thus came to be seen as part of a more general critique of the institutionalization of the mentally ill that developed during the s. Beyond this, the concept was perceived to be of more general relevance to the sociology of organizations.

Beyond Goffman : Studies on Communication, Institution, and Social Interaction

This is evident from its incorporation in most of the best known collections of readings and its citation in the standard textbooks of the subdiscipline. For example, in it was referred to in several of the independently authored chapters of the Handbook of Organizations edited by James March. This substantial volume is generally regarded as an authoritative summary statement of the state of play within the field at that time. Moreover, this was combined with an emphasis upon inter actions and meanings rather than what was — at that time -the more conventional focus upon organizational structures.

The specific social and cultural context in which the total institution concept was developed was that of the US during the s. With hindsight, it can be seen to bear the trace of the Cold War concerns of that time. Wright Mills. Totalitarianism was a notion that both linked together Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia and, prospectively, Communist China and clearly contrasted with the pluralism that was understood to be a — if not the — defining attribute of American society and politics.

Yet what the total institution concept explicitly pointed out was the presence within plural societies of a distinctive category of social establishments in which the preconditions for plural ism were purposely not met. It also involves something more than a conventional compromise between conceptual clarity and empirical adequacy; between an elegant idea and its altogether more disorderly social expression.

It is presented as if empirical but is in part speculative; presented as comparative but with an emphasis on the mental hospital. The aim now is to show that socially, strategically, reflectively and expressively modulated information is prominently molded in interactional celebrations.

The interactional order requires an innate respect for the sacredness of each other, which causes a certain ritualization of information. Goffman argues that subjects maintain a posture - a pattern of verbal and nonverbal acts that expresses their view on the social situation experienced and the participants, during interactions. To be effective during interactional transactions, the individuals must have convenient posture, attitude, behavior and appearance, which demonstrate that positive social attributes can be assigned to them - in our society, discretion, honesty, vocal and bodily control, self-control, composure under pressure, and others.

Deference is the appreciation that an individual demonstrates towards another. It implies rituals to which people are extremely sensitive; small interactional fissures can spoil the whole representation. To express deference, presentation rituals take place when the standardized form of contact denotes respect ; or avoidance rituals are used when the personal living space of the subject is preserved, in the Simmelian sense.

In ritualistic games, deference and posture are interconnected, and in an embarrassing situation, one individual often assists the other player for instance, lying or pretending not to perceive gaffes , thus showing involvement in the ritual and commitment to the situation similarly, within the dramaturgical metaphor, teams mutually support each other during representation, even when the contradictions and artificiality of the situation are evident.

The shame of the interlocutor becomes the subject's own shame.


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Embarrassment appears as an admission of the importance of interactional ritual. In these refined movements, the informational emphasis shifts to conducts. Goffman defines a rule of conduct as a 'guide to action'.

This rule is established not by its efficiency, low cost or pleasure, but because it is fair or appropriate in social situations. The act determined by a rule of conduct becomes communication. Even inaction or breach of the rule, due to its negative value, maintains the nature of communication. Anyhow, any mechanical conduct in the representation of ritualized information does not imply a required mechanics in its use in concrete experienced situations, particularly in its relation to other informative dimensions for example, an excessive salute may become maximal expression of scorn and irony.

However, Goffman claims a separate status for the interaction and communication orders. Mixing up these orders is the basic error of psychiatrists when they assume that inappropriateness in the situational conduct is somehow a pathology in communication.

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The argument may seem paradoxical, since communication was previously associated with conduct. Thus, one might think that there would be something in the information order that would transcend the merely situational aspects, establishing ties with the institutional order maybe this is the case with the concept of hyper-ritualization on informational displays, as addressed below. For Goffman , in " Gender advertisements" , the ceremony occurs in social situations when there is a gathering, and it may doubly refer to statements of social arrangements and presentations of ultimate truths about men and the world.

In ceremonies, social divisions and hierarchies are depicted 'microecologically' through the use of small-scale spatial metaphors.


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On these occasions, an iconic representation takes place directly, an imitation of that which subjects consider dear to them and which informs their existence. A simple and fixed element of the ceremony is called a ritual - conventional and superficial acts through which an individual demonstrates respect for others. However, beyond this concept of ritualization akin to Durkheim , there is another one. Certain emotionally motivated behaviors are formalized. These behaviors are exaggerated, stereotyped, disconnected from the original context of use, and as they spare the subject from performing the whole act, they consist of a utilitarian sense of ritualization, according to Goffman a display or exhibition.

The displays do not communicate in a strict sense; they do not enunciate something through a symbolic language designed for a specific purpose, but provide an alignment of the subject in the situation. As far as Goffman is concerned in this work with gender, understood as correlates of the culturally established categories of sex, gender displays refer to conventional representations of these correlates.

Goffman pursues characterizing the displays and providing several categories, which he used to analyze commercial photographs. Some examples are the 'feminine touch' - women caress and hold objects at the edges, while the men firmly grasp them in a utilitarian way. In 'licensed withdrawal' women become emotionally absent from the scene, looking outside the photo frame with a dreamy attitude.

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The 'ritualization of subordination' indicates, through framing or relative position, the fragility or subordinate position of women. The displays seem to be hyper-ritualized. Extracted from daily practice, they are exacerbated in advertising, providing an amplified view that is naturally accepted by the public. The hyper-ritualization may occur because it belongs to the make-believe world of ads, because it provides some narrative economy, or because it is inserted in edited advertisements that had the unrefined, ordinary everyday actions removed.

The fact is that it shows an unusual use of social information, arising from behavior, but without reaching the expressive status of signs, and being manipulated according to the situation with greater or less consciousness, but usually appropriately in view of the purpose. Approaches to some critical aspects of Goffman's work. The foregoing presentation, as a selective reading with specific purposes, necessarily omits some problems in the work of Goffman and possibly its informational reflexes , which are worth highlighting, even if only briefly, in that they are part of the topic of interest.

The assumption of the autonomy of the interaction order is problematic. Goffman suggests the existence of a weak link between the social and interactional orders 'loose gearing'. Burns criticizes the inconsistency with which the topic is treated in the work of Goffman, highlighting that social order seems to be understood as a set of rules to be followed and not a result of human action itself. Giddens , however, believes that beyond Goffman's own assertions, we can infer the meaning of social order when considering the various contexts institutional, linguistic etc.

Anyhow, the informational statuses arise ambiguously in confrontation with institutional and macro-social issues, requiring an exegesis from the scholar as has been suggested, the notion of informational displays may indicate a pathway. Another issue can be perceived in Goffman's emphasis on classifying and socially regulating the body. Schilling believes that this may indicate a certain dualism, meaning that the body is circumscribed by the mind. With regard to the topic of interest, the problem would be perceived when, emphasizing the autonomy of the interaction, Goffman incidentally derives certain information and communication autonomy that is detached from situational behaviors.

Again, the approach to the issue could go through sedimentation of body-constructed meanings that originate displays. The dimensions of the information portrayed, or their various statutes, seem to be entangled by definition because they express themselves synchronously in face-to-face situations of interaction and feedback, as the typical case of body information with its marked degree of meta-communication.

Through this multifaceted view, the approach by Goffman of social-informational interactional processes seem to demand an integrated perspective, which argues against paradigmatic or partial views of the concept of information, dealing with an object of study neglected by Information Science and suggesting empirical methods to investigate it. Steps to an ecology of mind : collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Northvale: Jason Aronson, The cognitive viewpoint in information science.

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Journal of Information Science , v. Erving Goffman. London: Routledge, Foundations of information science : review and perspectives. Cited: Sept. Information as a user construct: the relevance of perceived information needs to synthesis and interpretation. In: Ward, S.