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Moments on a City Bus: Micro-sociology of Non-verbal Interaction in Urban Bus-riding
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis seeks to contribute to research on social interaction in public (and semi-public) places in general, and research on non-verbal mundane interaction in these places in particular. By paying empirical attention to the non-verbal interaction that takes place in the context of riding a city bus – which is a contained and time-limited form of social activity – this thesis explores the theoretically rich source of information about mundane interaction that this specific social activity offers. By systematically applying a Goffmanian-informed conceptual framework to the analysis of data collected through participant observation, this thesis examines what this framework can offer to micro-sociological understandings of mundane non-verbal interaction. Moreover, this thesis investigates whether bodily cues for race, gender and age (and the sense of similarity and difference that they convey), play a role in the non-verbal mundane interaction that takes place in city busses. The assumption that mundane non-verbal interaction in a time- and space-constrained setting such as a city bus could be influenced by obvious phenotypical similarities and differences between the bodies­ of the people that engage in this interaction, is also hereby explored.

The empirical material utilized in this thesis has been generated through a carefully designed study of city bus riding that relies on participant observation (over a period of 10 months), and is based on the operationalization of an array of parameters to study non-verbal interaction in a theoretically-informed and systematic manner. The analyses performed allowed for the methodical study of what time, space and phenotypical variations mean to the non-verbal mundane interaction that takes place in city busses (a total 200 hours of observations were recorded in systematized field notes resulting in 136 interaction moments, which were coded along 307 parameters using ATLAS.ti).

The results suggest that while previous research on urban bus riding alludes to three dimensions of social interaction that are worthy of our attention – time, space, and (travelling) bodies – there is also a fourth dimension that scholars of social interaction (both verbal and non-verbal) ought to take into account (i.e. codes for interaction). The results indicate also that it is through the systematic attention to interaction moments (by acknowledging their dimensions, by taking into account features of gestures, and through detailed comparisons with other interaction moments) that we can achieve a deeper and detailed understanding of mundane non-verbal interaction in everyday life. Thus, by exposing new aspects of social interaction that future research can explore, as well as offering an array of new angles that it ought to consider (such as different aspects of intensity of involvement and types of territorial orientation to name but a few), this thesis expands the micro-sociological imagination of what mundane non-verbal interaction entails.

This thesis proposes that there is nothing inconsequential or fleeting about mundane non-verbal interaction in everyday life. This thesis shows namely that in the mundane non-verbal interaction that takes place in the public spaces that are city busses, the socially coded bodies of the riders, and therefore also the phenotypical similarities and differences between them, may be a part of the interaction space created and reshaped in each interaction moment. Thus, not only is mundane non-verbal interaction full of events, rhythms, and nuances in intensity, this interaction seems also to be heavily mediated by the phenotypical cues that are imprinted in our bodies, which is why labeling this interaction ‘mundane’ is deceiving.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Department of Sociology, Uppsala University , 2020. , p. 305
Keywords [en]
public places, mundane, non-verbal interaction, interaction moments, gestures, homogeneous/heterogeneous interaction, micro-sociology, Goffman, bus-riding, riders, time, space, bodies, interaction norms, structured participant observation, fieldnotes, territories, involvement, rituals
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-407872ISBN: 978-91-506-2819-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-407872DiVA, id: diva2:1417752
Public defence
2020-09-25, Humanities Theatre, Thunbergsvägen 3C, Uppsala, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-09-03 Created: 2020-03-30 Last updated: 2020-09-22

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Vieira, Magdalena

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