Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life provides a detailed description and analysis of process and meaning in everyday interaction. Goffman writes from a symbolic interactionist perspective, emphasizing a qualitative analysis of the components of the interactive process. Through a sociological analysis he explores the details of individual identity, group relations, and the movement and interactive meaning of information. Goffman's perspective provides insight into the nature of social interaction and the psychology of the individual.
Goffman employs a "dramaturgical approach" in his study, concerning himself with the mode of presentation employed by the actor and its meaning in the broader social context (Goffman, 240). Interaction is viewed as a "performance," shaped by environment and audience, constructed to provide others with "impressions" that are consonant with the desired goals of the actor (17). The performance exists regardless of the mental state of the individual, as persona is often imputed to the individual in spite of his or her lack of faith in the performance.
Goffman uses the example of the doctor who is forced to give a placebo to a patient, aware of its impotence, as a result of the desire of the patient for more extensive treatment (18). In this way, the individual develops identity or persona as a function of interaction with others, through an exchange of information that allows for more specific definitions of identity and behavior.
The process of establishing social identity becomes closely allied to the concept of the "front," which is described as "that part of the individual's performance which regularly functions in a general and fixed fashion to define the situation for those who observe the performance" (22). The front acts as a vehicle of standardization, allowing for others to understand the individual on the basis of projected character traits that...