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Overview• Micro-level, culture-centered, meaning-making social theory focused on the way we learn culture and how it structures our everyday experience We determine our behavior based on our perception of self and others.Also based on symbolic meanings in situations which are used to create shared meaning. Meaning is created in interactions through shared interpretations of symbols. (this very text)
Origins: The Chicago School• The University of Chicago – 1920’s• Most productive symbolic interactionists were here• Social Experiment = City + Cultures+ Interaction• They saw a Great Community in Chicago (new ways to develop culture – optimistic) o Vs. Mass Society (High Culture dictates mass culture = degrading human existence• Robert E. Park saw newspapers as essential in interconnecting “Culture is the world of objects in communities – making up great which human beings live” communities through news
The Rebel: George H. Mead• Born in Massachusetts | (rebelled against religious atmosphere in his community)• Studied philosophy at Harvard & Europe• Taught at Univ. Chicago (rarely published)• Active social reformer – viewed society as ongoing and changeable at the individual level.• Society may have the power to shape the person, but the people can also mold their society.• Went against popular behaviorist & Attempted to account for the origins and development of idealist notions. human mind - or intelligence – by locating it within the process• Thought the human mind is too of evolution, by showing that compound to be described by instinct the origins of human mind lie in human society[ only
Mead’s Deeds• Gave insight into socialization process (animals have predetermined, conditioned responses to stimuli but humans socialize in ways that allow more/less conscious analysis of stimuli/responses)• How? Through Symbols! (Abstract representation of unseen phenomena)• Drew ideas from Pragmatism to support the idea of Agency and find “Culture is constantly changing” middle ground with idealist/behaviorist theories •Sign: any element that represents another• Community creates and propagates in any environment (natural or artificial) culture: complex set of symbols that •Artificial signs only work if we agree on their guide/shape our experiences meaning (interactive)
Posthumous Celebrity• Herbert Blumer & other students collected Mead’s lectures, writings, etc. during his tenure – created “Mind, Self, and Society” in 1934• Essentially argues that symbols create our experience of the mind, understanding of ourselves, and our knowledge of the larger social order (society).• Symbols were filtering mechanisms for our experience• Similar to information-processing theory in that symbols (schemas) allow us to make sense of new sensory info. Mead believed mind, self, and society are internalized sets of symbols – filtering mechanism.
• Acknowledged Mead • Said that Symbolic as laying the Interactionism consisted of analyzing 3 premises: foundation for Symbolic 1. Humans act toward things on Interactionism basis of meaning that those things have for them (i.e. trees,• Wanted to build a chair, dad) reasoned statement of 2. The meaning of such things are derived from social the methodological interaction that one has with position of the others. approach (none 3. Meanings are handled/modified through an existed) interpretive process during encounters
Symbolic Interactionism Contd. In-scene Symbols What made this possible? o Swatstika • Did the presence of these o Language/words symbols alone create the o Gestures interaction? o Wardrobe (bikers) • Complex combination of symbols, interpretations, o Setting/Environment (WWII vet meanings, and interactions event) that created this – ultimately o Moustache allowing everyone to learn o Audio (german similarity) more about themselves and others. • According to Blumer the meanins were social products created and formed through this interaction
DirectPerception• Coined by Dr. George Berkeley 1. You see something and obtain direct perception (sensory data) 2. Arrangement of the data leads to specific meanings which influence your reaction/behavior 3. The interconnection and relationship ends up defining your self
Then & Now: Media Theorists’ Views• Mead’s theory focused little on • Don F. Faules & Dennis media’s role C. Alexander (1978)• Took decades for media o Communication: symbolic theorists to work with his ideas behavior that results in various• Michael Solomon (1983) was a degrees of shared meaning consumer researcher and and values between acknowledged 4 key areas of participants. Mead’s research • Communication is key to o Cultural symbols are learned through interpretation/perception interaction then mediate interaction o Shared meaning by people in cultures allows • Communication is guided others who learn a culture to predict by and guides self, role, behaviors of others in that culture situations – generating o Self-definition is social in nature; we are defined through interaction with environment expectations in/of environ o The extent by which a person is committed to • Communication: Complex a social identity dictates the ability of the identity to influence behavior Interaction w/ many factors
Sources• P. Hewitt. “Dilemmas of the American Self”, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989• H. Blumer. “Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method”, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rOgqwD2OjQ• S. Baran, D. Davis. “Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future 6th Edition”, Cengage Learning, 2010.• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dsgQb3jkk4