The Dramaturgical Perspective.
Goffmans dramaturgical methaphor perspective, follows the idea that we all act out roles we are assigned or take on. These roles are acted upon a stage of life and our society. In the front region – where we put on a show. In the back region – where we are seen to be natraul. Although this is seen to be acting too, as this is learned role behaviour.
Goffman did not produce a social theory, he came up with an outlined understanding of how people do life and act it out. How we display our selves to present the image required for our role. I.e. how a bank manager persents themselves and their company as a serious organisation who will care for your financial issues, they will do this though there behaviour, there tone of voice, there body language, there converstional language. And though props – the bank buildings, the serious atmosphere, the suit they may wear. This is way they act out there role as ‘bank manager’. In the back stage, say on there lunch hour they will play different roles which could be seen as less formal.
These roles played are technical mechanisms, which provide us with identity for others to view us as. They are vehicles for people’s moral enterprises. This gives a moral dimention in which people can then negotiate matters like popularity or reputation.
Goffmans understaning was that interaction comes in two types of information the impression given, and the impression given off. People must have impression management in order to carry out there roles.
To understand Goffmans dramaturgical methaphor perspective, we can look at and experiment setup by Philip Zimbardo in 1973.
In this experiment a basement was set up as a prison, students where paid to take part. They were randomly assigned as prisoners ; guards and where provided with uniforms.
Their instructions where that the guards where to ‘maintain order for the effective functioning of the prison. The results of the experiment where that the experiment was cut short because the prisoners became passive, depressed and talked of causing hurt to the guards. The guards had become aggressive, sadistic and had taken total control of the prisoners e.g. toilet as a privilege.
The experiment shows that the guards and prisoners where acting out roles they interpret as how ‘prisoner’ or ‘guard’ should behave, it is thought that they could have over played there roles because they were aware they were meant to play a role. The guards had to maintain impression management that they were giving off a convincing role as a guard. The prisoners also had to maintain face as victim. This was undertaken in order to control identity.
Our roles are thought as part of our identity this means they affect how we seen by others and they are part of us and how we think, so the guards and prisoners were simply thinking in terms of there roles.
The roles of ‘prisoner’ and ‘guard’ are ‘off the peg’, the students were aware of how a guard should be controlling and a prisoner passive. This provided them with a scrip as how they should interact. The guards and prisoners displayed there social characters by showing self-impressions e.g. emotion. While using props – the uniforms in their social scene.
The dramaturgical perspective looks at how people maintain roles thought impression management. They may not show their own feelings or desires in a situation so the society formed functions smoothly. In the example of the prison, the guards may have not wanted to treat the prisoners as they did, but they behaved as they did in order to maintain face. This shows people create a ‘working consensus’ through the roles of impression management.
The prisoners maintained some degree of a back region, where they would talk of hurting the guards. This showed that they give off a different impression or role in the front region – the presence of the guards.
They also involved them selves in performance teams, roles acted out were done as teams. By the end of the experiment the prisoners where acting out their roles as victims as a team. The guards where acting out their roles as a team, in order to control the prisoners. The prisoners maintained some control in their back region where they would talk of hurting the guards, this is also part of the team performance.
The some problems with Goffmans dramaturgical methaphor perspective, where outlined.
It was noted thet the mock prison was that, as it was not a real role projection, the actions of the guards and prisoners where not a true relfection of a real prison or perhaps real life.
The students where showing an identity of how the ‘should’ behave in the experiment, perhaps fitting in to roles too much and once again maybe not giving a true reflection of roles in society.
The experiment was highly controversial and perhaps unethical, it was seen to teach us a moral lesion but failed to show us how power is related to roles. The role of the scientists who conducted the experiment, maybe a better study, as they were the real power behind this experiment.
The performer as a self is seen to be shallow, Goffman does not tackle any issues of the idea of the inner-self. Although tackling issues of inner-self has proved very difficult if not impossible to find a counter arguments
As Goffman developed his dramaturgical metaphor though looking at illustrative materials, books, his own observations, etiquette, and other sources. It hase led to criticism that his works have been more suggestive rather than anything else.