Tag Archives: goffman

Framing + Tumblr

What I’d like to do now is outline the application of frame analysis to communities formed on the streaming web log (blog) and social networking site, Tumblr.com. Not only that, but I plan to delight you with the specific example of genderfork.tumblr.com, which is a reblog and submission based community blog for trans* and genderqueer folks. Tumblr is a social blogging platform that allows users to manage personal blogs or group blogs, publishing original context, reblogging original content of other users, sending and publishing personal messages called “asks,” and submitting original content to the personal or group blogs of other users. Users “follow” the blogs of other individuals, all of whose content then appears as a streaming feed on the user’s homepage, also know as the “Dashboard.”

The frame within which one operates on the Tumblr platform determines the aspects of reality that become noticed by or “alive to” each person. Tumblr users decide which blogs to follow based on their personal interests and desires, just as an individual might enter into a situation for any number of reasons, but the material on the Dashboard that becomes relevant and “real” to that person depends entirely on the frame of the person’s online community. Through the unique process of reblogging on Tumblr, users make claims for identity by associating with other people’s original content. In this way, social identity is learned.

Let’s take this photo, reblogged by the moderators of genderfork. The photo depicts only the back and shoulder blades of a thin, white skinned person. A filmy, white ace bandage is wrapped in a strip, three or four times around the upper part of the person’s back. Now let’s all take a guess at the meaning of this photograph based on our understanding as individuals operating either inside or outside the frame of the genderfork community.  One could guess that this is a photo of a person with some sort of back injury. But someone who has a deep understanding of the community formed around genderfork, would know immediately this is a photograph of a person with a bound chest. Binding is an action practiced by many people with breasts who choose to present as having no breasts. Although many people may practice binding, it is most commonly observed among  genderqueer people and trans* men. The social context of the genderfork community allows a person operating within the frame to have an immediate understanding of the meaning associated with the photo without reading the caption or exploring the comments.

So, what I’m trying to get across through all of this theoretical babble is this: if you are living and operating within a certain frame, that frame will affect the way you understand any interaction or experience you have. Frames can drastically change our understanding of meanings and materials. If one were looking only at this blog from within the frame of an online genderqueer community and had no other background about the society within which it existed, one might understand gender fluidigy and trans* identities to be mainstream, accepted, or “normal.” The rules understood and followed by the members of this community create a certain kind of world that makes the outside world seem almost unreal.

Works Cited:

“Genderforkr.” Genderforkr. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://genderfork.tumblr.com/&gt;.

Image Credit:

Bound: http://bit.ly/HYPIou


Let’s talk frames

In reading about the experiences of queer folks online, my inner theoretical monster has definitely lept from the shadows…as I’m sure you can tell by reading some of my previous posts. One thing that has become very important in terms of my personal understanding of queer meaning in blogging and vlogging spaces is the concept of frames, introduced to me and to the social world by one, Erving Goffman.

Goffman’s theory of frame analyses explains that communities, groups, and sets of individuals have a certain shared perception that allows them to define what reality is and what situations mean. This shared perception, a set of rules that governs any given activity, Goffman identifies as the “frame.” The process of framing is one that concerns the structure of experience and the organization of collective activity; Goffman is not at all concerned here with the agency or consciousness of the individual. His goal is to make observations about objective structures, seeing the subject as unselfconscious (Jameson 238). Though the individual may define his or her situation as “real,” the reasoning behind that belief is constructed socially within the context of a frame.

The isolation of a particular frame takes place when the analyst focuses in on a “strip” of activity or actions. According to Goffman, the term strip refers to “any arbitrary slice or cut from the stream of ongoing activity” (Goffman 10). Any instance that can be identified and organized can be analyzed through its frame, and as many possible frames exist as the ways in which an event can be differentiated (Craib 81). Goffman’s theory contributes the idea that one strip of activity could have many meanings assigned to it, depending on the frame within which the actor is operating. The frame is merely the tool by which we analyze events; a camera, as it were, that creates a picture of reality (Gameson 603).  This picture is comprised of what the actor is “alive to at a particular moment” or what he can “take into his mind” (Goffman 13). The frame serves to connect meaning to a situation that would otherwise be meaningless to the individual.

Each strip of activity is originally located within a “primary framework” that determines whether the situation is naturally occurring or man-made (Gameson 604). The frames are then situated within a still larger structure: the “definition of the situation,” which is described as the actor’s largest subjective response. Within the primary framework, then, groups have the ability to alter the meaning of the strip through collective action and understanding. The two processes by which this change becomes possible are “keying,” or shifting the framework to change the mutual understanding of certain actions, or “fabrication,” the active deception of one or more individuals by a group (Goffman 40). So imagine you’re hanging out with your friends down at the Chok’lit Shoppe and Pop Tate is slinging you a couple of burgers. (Let’s hope he has black bean burgers or some other vegan option at this point. Pop–come on) You say to your buddy, “Hey man! That baseball game this afternoon was real groovy! Every guy really gave it his all!” So your buddy responds, “Yeah cool story bro. Too bad you were there giving it your all or we could have actually won the game.” Your bud has just changed the key of your frame from happy go-lucky Archie land to jerk-tastic Reggie city by making you feel wicked crummy about what you just said/did. Capeesh? Goffman describes these processes as:

“The set of conventions by which a given activity, one already meaningful in terms of some primary framework, is transformed by the participants to something quite else” (Goffman 43-44).

Scholars of frame analysis believe that frames are indispensable to the process of communication (Scheff 371). Without an understanding of context as it relates to frame, as Thomas Scheff wrote, an analyst “may well misinterpret the meaning of discourse (Scheff 372). Now—try to keep all of this in mind when reading my next post. Buckle your seat belts and prepare for…A CASE STUDY!

Works Cited:

Craib, I. “Erving Goffman: Frame Analysis.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 8.1 (1978): 79-86. Print.

Gameson, William A. “Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience.” Contemporary Sociology 4.6 (1975). Print.

Goffman, Erving. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Harper & Row, 1974. Print.

Scheff, Thomas J. “The Structure of Context: Deciphering Frame Analysis*.”Sociological Theory 23.4 (2005): 368-85. Print.

Image Credit: 

Goffman: http://bit.ly/Jesxdh

Pop Tate: http://bit.ly/IFFjPv

Queer and Young Online

Social networks are awesome. They’re interesting; they’re time consuming; they’re confusing; they’re frustrating; they’re…a whole lotta cool. My guess is that you probably spend about 27 hours a day online participating in some sort of social networking. Perhaps you are even multi-tasking, like me, and networking while cooking, singing, cutting your toenails, and doing other important life tasks. WELL GUESS WHAT?!!? Online social networks are a topic of rising interest among academics too!! Scholars are asking what implications social networking and online living might have for social interactions, capacity for memory, empathy, self presentation, and friendship performance (Keller 2011, Boyd and Ellison 2007).

One popular topic for highfalutin investigation is impression management—the conscious construction of an online persona or identity through networked connections and public displays of personal information, true or false (Donath and Boyd 2004). To avoid falsity or inauthenticity, most platforms encourage authentic representations of self by encouraging users to send messages to other users, comment on posts by other users, and use real photographs of themselves to create a sense of personal connection (Boyd and Ellison 2007). Erving Goffman’s theory of impression management explains that we monitor the behaviors and actions of people we encounter and attempt to see through what we perceive as false while simultaneously trying to project a constructed identity that fits others’ expectations of us and our desires for self-perception (Goffman 1959). Social media theorists have adopted Goffman’s system of “front stage” and “back stage” regions in face-to-face interactions to describe online identity formation (Ytreberg 2002).

You know when you finally work up the courage to send a fanmail message to somebody cute on Tumblr and say something like–“So, um, your blog is really cool and stuff. I have hairy pits too. We should be friends.”–that’s front stage. And the rest of the time when you’re just scrolling endlessly drooling over sexy queers and wondering if you might be able to pull off gold lame short shorts? That’s back stage.

In “The Social Media Bible,” author Sakfo describes how social networks develop trust among group of people with a share interest. He explains how the internet has become a trusted, reliable, friend, providing advice and housing confidential information (Safko and Brake 2009). I don’t know about you all, but my relationship with the internet is more nuanced than at least one or two of my offline relationships. The only person who knows more of my secrets is my dog, and she may or may not be telling.

In an article on the creation of online communities of gay and lesbian folks, Robin Queen discusses the importance of language in creating queer space. She writes:

 “The social differentiation of gender differs significantly between queer and non-queer speakers in that the social categories masculine and feminine map on to queer experiences differently than on to non-queer experiences (if they can be said to map on to queer experiences at all). Queer people alternatively appropriate or distance themselves from the stereotypes associated with men and women generally. However, they may also do the same with stereotypes associated with queer people specifically (Queen 1998).

Stereotypes related to gender and sexuality are largely constructed through the use of specific language and, in the vast world of online communication, it’s possible to carefully choose language that disrupts binary constructs–or dichotomous arrangements that pit identities against one another in a seemingly dualistic arrangement. Members of queer online communities generally share a base knowledge of stereotypical—I would argue binary—language that allows them the freedom to experiment with alternative usages.

In my humble opinion,  some similarities can be drawn between the formation of an online identity and the formation of gender identity. Check out my next post where I talk about genderqueerness in all its glory.

Works Cited:

Boyd, Danah M and Nicole B Ellison. 2007. “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship.” Journal of ComputerMediated Communication 13 (1): 210-230.

Boyd, Danah. 2011.“Why Youth ♥ Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.” The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning: 119-142.

Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in EverydayLife. New York: Doubleday.

Keller, Bill. “The Twitter Trap.” New York Times Magazine. The New York Times, 18 May 2011. Web. 24 Sept. 2011.          <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/magazine/the-twitter-trap.html?_r=4&gt;.

Lewis, Kevin, Jason Kaufman, and Nicholas Christakis. “The Taste for Privacy: An Analysis of College Student Privacy Settings in an Online Social Network.”Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 14.1 (2008): 79-100.

Safko, Lon, and David K. Brake. The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools, and Strategies for Business Success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. Print.

Queen, Robin M. 1998. “‘Stay queer!’‘Never fear!’: building queer social networks.” World Englishes 17 (2): 203-214.

Ytreberg, Espen. 2002. “Erving Goffman as a theorist of the mass media.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 19(4):481-497.

Image Credit:

Nail Biter: http://bit.ly/HU9QIg

Stella: Personal photo