Civil Inattention Essay, Research Paper
Every time we enter a public place we engage in some sort of social interaction. This is a part of our everyday life. Certain public settings are even created for the sole purpose of social interaction. The Study Hall bar in Isla Vista is one such place. Most people go to this bar to get drunk, and to interact with friends or among the unacquainted. Throughout my many visits to the Study Hall, I observed multiple kinds of social transmissions. These interactions between bar patrons varied from positive to negative discussions and were influenced by not only gender but social status also. In the following pages to come I will discuss and analyze social interactions between certain individuals and analytically breakdown some of the conversations that were occurring during my visits. The following analysis will explain what sorts of interactions take place inside of a bar, and will examine the effects that alcohol has on a person engaging in conversation with the known and unknown.
Many concepts will be used to explain and analyze the social transmissions at the Study Hall. After observing many different situations and interactions at the bar, I was able to apply concepts that were used in lecture and throughout the readings. I will begin by analyzing the forming of a relationship and work all the way into breaking down the actual conversation itself which all occurred at the Study Hall. The process begins with an initial interaction between two individuals who are meeting for the first time.
Civil Inattention and Anonymous Relationships
It begins with a young male coming to the bar to meet his friends to watch a game. As he enters, a female sitting at a table with two other women notices him. As he passed, he glanced at the table of girls at which time female #1 (the girl who first noticed him) happily made eye contact with him and gave a little smile. It would only be a matter of time before the two would engage in more than an unratified mutual personal identification (Lerner, 10/10/00). I was able to apply Lerner s lecture concept of civil inattention to this interaction because it served as a resource to initiate communication between the two individuals. As Goffman explained in the article engagements Among the Unacquainted, one can engage in personal interaction with the unacquainted when that person is in an exposed position (Goffman, 31). In other words, when the little smile after eye contact occurred between girl #1 and the passing male, she put herself in an exposed position. The little smile was an invitation for the passing male was an invitation for the passing male to initiate conversation. This interaction was actually a sanction breach of civil inattention (Lerner, 10/10/00). This is a sanction breach because there was enough visual notice to withdrawal the passing male s attention. The smile or invitation for conversation is called a warrant. As described in Lerner s lecture of civil inattention, a warrant is a good reason for talking. After about a half-hour and a few drinks, the male gained enough courage to engage in conversation with girl #1. This was the creation of an anonymous relationship. An anonymous relationship is the formation or a tie of two random individuals who associate on a personal level on a first time basis. This concept can be applied because there was no prior history of an actual relationship (Lerner, 10/10/00). Since the two had had a few drinks before they decided to talk to each other, the alcohol seemed to have removed any hesitation in the male as he approached girl #1. Alcohol also can be a disadvantage, especially when one is attempting to argue their ideas and beliefs.
Token Status and Performance Monitoring
People who are distinctive in a group, such as the only African American or the only woman, are often subjected to intense scrutiny from others (Saenz, 149). When certain individuals are pinpointed as being the minority of the group, they are the token or the person that stands out in the setting (Saenz, 149). When a person is classified as the token of the group, much attention is placed on this person on how they perform and it can easily have a negative outcome. During one of my observations at the Study Hall, I focused primarily on the effects a setting can have on a individual, especially when alcohol is involved. With the presidential election on people s minds, the popular topic of conversation has been politics. Politics can be a very touchy subject can be a very touchy subject especially at a university where many students are involved and take their political beliefs very seriously. One individual in particular was slightly intoxicated and was very outspoken about the election. As he mentioned whom he voted for, he was instantly scrutinized for his choice of candidate. During this time, the Study Hall was filled with younger democratic liberals who strongly opposed George W. Bush. When the intoxicated individual spoke highly of Bush, he obviously became the minority or token of the group. His performance was now closely paid close attention to as others listened to him as he tried to explain his reasons for his beliefs. Under certain conditions, this heightened social attention can lead to improved performance (Saenz, 149). Rather than improved performance, the treatment he received from the majority group proved to be fatal. On top of his political beliefs, the alcohol played a major role in this individual s downfall. He was unable to defend himself in a proper manner as the alcohol had affected his ability to reason properly. Even though he was not a minority of a racial, ethnic, or gender group, he was still a member of what was a distinctive group at the time because his party was overwhelmingly underrepresented. This interaction and conversation was one-sided in the sense that the outspoken male was outnumbered and therefore was unable to have a fair chance to represent his group. For someone to fairly represent them self, the process of conversation must be distributed evenly.
Construction of Conversation/Adjacency Pairs
When analyzing a conversation, one must look at the structure of the conversation. Conversations are based on a combination of words that make up a sentence. Each person in the conversation takes turns exchanging sentences or phrases. While I was observing groups of people at the Study Hall, I focused on a couple that had just me for the first time. Here is an excerpt from their conversation:
Male: So do ya want a drink or somethin?
Female: Um ah, OK, but I m not getting Fxxked up because I have too much school tomorrow.
Male: That sucks man, school really sucks. So whatcha havin to drink?
Female: Well I don t really want beer so I guess I ll have somethin with vodka in it.
Male: How bout a vodka collins or tonic?
Female: I want vodka redbull. Yea vodka redbull, they really get me Shitty.
Male: But I thought you can t get faded tonight because you have school.
Female: I m only going to drink a few. I don t really get hungover when I drink redbull.
After reviewing the excerpt from the Study Hall, I was able to apply concepts from the readings to the conversation that I observed. The first concept comes from the Organization of Conversation article by West and Zimmerman. The first concept of turn-taking is evident in the excerpt from the male and female at the bar. This turn-taking mechanism can be formulated as a sequence of options available whenever the issue of speaker change arises (West/Zimmerman, 237). These turns are constructed by the speaker and are called unit types (West/Zimmerman, 237). Unit types are produced by the speaker and may be words, phrases, clauses, or sentences (West/Zimmerman, 237). At the end of a sentence or phrase, there is a transition in which the transfer of a turn occurs from one speaker to the next. In the conversation at the Study Hall, turns are clearly evident as the exchange of sentences flow evenly with no interruptions. As I will mention later on, alcohol can negatively affect the process of sentence exchange and conversation solidarity. In this conversation, the male seemed to be asking most of the questions while the female responded with clarity making smooth transitions of turns. Usually conversations begin with a request, invitation, or an offer. These underlying activities are discussed in Heritage s Conversation and Social Solidarity. Accounts are based on requests, invitations, and offers. These also require responses of either acceptances or refusals. Offers are commonly rejected by reference to a lack of need for the offered thing (Heritage, 240). The main underlying activity in the conversation at the bar begins with an offer to buy the girl a drink. For a moment there is a delay in which she determines if she actually needs what he is offering. if first speakers can analyze a pause as a prefatory to rejection, they can use the time to step into modify or revise the first utterance (Heritage, 240). At first it seems if she was going to refuse the offer with her delay of um ah in which the male would have had to revise his question. Luckily for the male, she accepts and clarifies her acceptance by letting him know that she can t get too drunk because she has school tomorrow. In contrast to the article, the female uses the delay not to refuse his offer but rather to pause for a slight moment, accept his offer, and then shut down any pre-conceived notions that the male may have had when offering her the drink. Two tasks are accomplished because the male gets to buy her the drink, she gets to accept the drink while letting the male know that she will not get drunk with him.