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The Dramaturgical Approach and Ethnomethodology

The Dramaturgical Approach, created by Erving Goffman, likens all social interaction to acting on the stage of life. As such, he saw all of our social interaction as playing roles and giving performances. The theater analogy allows us to see social interaction as though we are watching (and/or participating in) a play. The story unfolds as people play their roles, using cues and scenery and props as part of their performances. Goffman differentiated between front stage and back stage and maintained that all of us always want to look as good as we can. Thus, his theory focused on impression management.
Harold Garfinkle fathered the Ethnomethological study of social interaction. He claimed that we go into all situations with a set of background assumptions about how the interaction should happen. These background assumptions are not in the front of our minds; thus, the ethno (folk or people) methodology (way) perspective does “breaching experiments” where they breach an ongoing interaction to see how people will react. The reactions are almost always to get the interaction back on track, running smoothly. This brings up the background assumptions we have about various social settings.

Both of these perspectives fall under the Symbolic Interaction umbrella. Which do you think is better and why?

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