“Context collapse” on a small island
Using Goffman’s dissertation fieldwork to think about online communication
Commentators and analysts in new media studies have taken inspiration from Goffman’s ‘dramaturgical’ approach to interaction as performance, as well as his concepts of ‘face’ and ‘impression management’. Goffman is specifically invoked in discussions of a particular source of interactional trouble that is seen as generated in and by the structure of mediated communication in digital spaces: so-called “context collapse.” Context collapse represents “a crisis of self-presentation” (Wesch, 2008) that is brought about by the ability of digital platforms like Twitter and Facebook to “flatten multiple audiences into one” (Marwick & boyd, 2010, p. 9). Returning to Goffman’s unpublished PhD dissertation (Goffman, 1953) – based on fieldwork on the remote island of Unst in the Shetlands – presents an opportunity to understand more fully both the online phenomenon of “context collapse” and the promise and limitations of Goffman’s work for the study of interaction in digital environments.
Keywords: Goffman, context collapse, computer-mediated communication (CMC), social media, ethnography
Published online: 22 October 2019
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Cited by 2 other publications
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