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Dramaturgical approach

Created by James Howick.

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Video transcript

Erving Goffman was a famous sociologist in the 1940's. And he studied people and the nature of their interactions. So while he was observing people in their social settings he noticed a lot of interesting things. He noticed that people planned their conduct. They want to guide and control how they're seen. They act differently in social settings than when they're alone. And they also want to put forth the best presentation of themselves that they can. And he says that people do all these things through a process called "dramaturgy." And he goes on further to break down dramaturgy into two different parts. The first part is called "frontstage." And frontstage is simply when people are in a social setting. So they are around a lot of people. So we could take an example, maybe we have a guy and he's on a stage. And he's with a bunch of guys and he's trying to make some friends and he's new to a place. And they all say "Hey, do you want to come to the baseball game? "You can come watch and we can hang out "and we can get to know each other. "And maybe we can become friends." And he says, "Oh, yeah, I love baseball." So he goes and watches the game. But really, he doesn't like baseball at all. Maybe he really hates baseball. But he's just doing it to sort of give off the impression that "hey, I'm pretty cool and I like sports. "So, maybe we can be friends." So he's just trying to manipulate how he's seen so he can gain favor with those people and get some friends. So that's "frontstage." It's sort of putting on a front and acting for an audience. The second part to Goffman's approach is called "backstage." And the backstage is a much more private area of our lives. And really, the backstage, this is when the act is over. So you sort of come off the stage in front of all these people in the social setting and there is no social setting here. You can just be yourself. You do whatever comes to mind, whatever makes you comfortable, and nobody knows about it. Maybe only a few people really close to you know something about your backstage. But maybe there's some things in your backstage that nobody knows about. So, maybe the guy front the first example, he's done with the baseball game and hanging out and you know, being a real guy, or whatever. And then he comes over here and now he just loves hanging out with his cat and watching cooking shows and cooking nice meals. And that's it. You know, he doesn't really like sports. But nobody really has to know that about him. And an interesting point that I want to bring up is that now you see some people sort of crossing over from their backstage to their frontstage due to social media. Now people are sort of putting on an act and a front in their backstage to put on a good impression and say "Hey, I'm pretty cool." You know, "I'm in a happy relationship. "I've got a lot of friends. "I do a lot of cool things." But really, this may not be the case. This guy over here, he may just be alone. And he may not have a spouse. And maybe he just hangs out with his cat all day. And he's just, you know, he's not as cool as he says he is. But that's just an interesting thought you know. Now people are often taking, in their private lives, putting on a front and sort of going back on the stage. So these two are kind of related in that way. So, just to review here, the frontstage now, this is the carefully thought out act that you do in social settings just to gain favor. And maybe use it to your advantage one day. And the backstage is a much more private area of your life that not a lot of people know about. And you can sort of kick back and relax and do whatever you want. And now we see that these two are sort of related because people through social media are sort of crossing over into the frontstage and putting on an act in their private lives. So this is just a way that we can understand how we all behave as humans in a social setting.