Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of complicitous silence says that certain aspects of culture are so innate and natural that they never require any articulation. They are, and come to view when something alien to that culture comes into view.

Erving Goffman writing adds to this line of thinking with his focus on communication.

When an individual enters the presence of others, they commonly seek to acquire information about him or to bring into play information about him already possessed. Although some of this information seems to be sought almost as an end in itself, there are usually quite practical reasons for acquiring it. 

Information about the individual helps to define the situation, enabling others to know in advance what he will expect of them and what they may expect of him. Informed in these ways, the others will know how best to act in order to call forth a desired response from him.

Guidelines for sensemaking perhaps? 

For those present, many sources of information become accessible and many carriers (or “sign-vehicles”) become available for conveying this information. 

What does mediation (say when muted on a Zoom video call) mean for these?

On explicit and tacit communication:

The expressiveness of the individual (and therefore his capacity to give impressions) appears to involve two radically different kinds of sign activity: the expression that he gives, and the expression that he gives off. 

The symmetry of communication is a powerful idea. Do we have more equality in our signals when we share the same physical space, with the same lighting, position, and spatial affordances?

This kind of control upon the part of the individual rein states the symmetry of the communication process, and sets the stage for a kind of information game—a potentially infinite cycle of concealment, discovery, false revelation, and rediscovery. 

How about the signals given in those multi-participant Zoom calls? What will a virtual background tell you about a person? Their facial expression as part of a gallery view, or their physical environment? 

On a larger scale, what does that mean in the aggregate? As these signals add up, is the group able to develop a safe space for discourse and communication?

When we allow that the individual projects a definition of the situation when he appears before others, we must also see that the others, however passive their role may seem to be, will themselves effectively project a definition of the situation by virtue of their response to the individual and by virtue of any lines of action they initiate to him.

— The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, by Erving Goffman, Sven Bergström (on Good Reads

Thank you for reading

@byedit @byedit
@themetadesk @themetadesk
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