Ep02 – Depth of Goffman’s metaphor (substance and style explication) and how the image creation design is done


Let’s start where we left last time – connection between style and substance is symbiotic and somewhat asymmetric with the substance being feeder shark and style being remora fish.

Erving Goffman is best known for his metaphor of life as a drama with people as actors interacting with each other at the “scene”. We talked a bit about this concept here. Now I would like to focus more on seeing what happens if we add to this idea our little notion on style and substance. From the one side it is easy to deduce that one cannot simply be analyzed entirely through lens of only one role – because style/way of being has too much autonomy from substance of personality this kind of analysis would be incomplete and as a rule will provide false results.

From the other side while designing a personal image, a goal oriented role for a particular, defined person we have to take into account her/his “substance” so she/he can deliver the designed “style”. In this sense autonomy of the style isn’t unlimited. To say even further, with some specific traits the autonomy could be very small if exist at all (social anxiety disorder for instance – work on “style” has to be met with work on the “substance” part in such case).

Since we still operate on Goffman’s dramaturgical concept – in the pragmatic approach to image design then, substance should be considered as a condition and put in the same line with other conditions working on advantage or disadvantage of certain strategy or concept design. It shouldn’t be considered as ultimate determining factor (cause it rarely is such) for possibility of achieving certain goals, though.

To wrap it up: From the point of solely analyzing the style or the substance, as a rule, one will get false predictions. With professional approach it is highly probable for goals and image to meet in point of balance where no frustration or feeling of under achieving occur (of course taking to account only the factor of one’s image). Especially when those factors are taken into account: 1. Personal façade vs. backstage – emotional loads that are not shown in interaction but are withdrawn to “back of our head”, which creates negative stress (in opposition to eustress, the positive, motivating stress). 2. Violent changes in character and role – as we mentioned, style affect substance, so violent changes in way of being can affect our personality and moods as well as create cognitive dissonance in people that interact with us. 3. Problem with proper delivery of designed image, proper acting if you will – it can be lessen through practice but best designed images are those relatively natural to execute.

If you have further questions, please write in comments section or send me an e-mail.
– Przemek Kucia

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