Situational behavior

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Since first learning about Marshall McLuhan, I've always been a fan. I've read Understanding Media, and while I did not understand it, I thought there were a wealth of interesting ideas within. I feel like he falls into a certain class of theorists who are visionary. As such, I tend to forgive them of any wrongdoing and simply praise them for their visions. However, Joshua Meyrowitz rightly takes McLuhan to task in "No Sense of Place." He demonstrates that McLuhan, by design, failed to unify media studies as a discipline because he provided no theory or methodology. Meyrowitz goes on to suggest that there can be theory and methodology in the examination of the affects of media on social behavior and points to several other theorists working on the task (Ong, Carothers, Watt, Eisenstein, etc.).

Meyrowitz shows that there is a distinction between medium theorists like McLuhan and Innis and those who look at situational behavior. He goes into the work of Erving Goffman to describe that all social situations are pretensed by frames. These frames have subtle clues that let us know what to expect in the given environment. Within these frames, we have "frontstage" faces and presences and "backstage" faces and presences.

I would love to write more, but I can't keep my eyes open... :(

Kevin's Bookmarks