restricted access The Invisible Technologies of Goffman's Sociology From the Merry-Go-Round to the Internet

Erving Goffman is not usually thought of as sociologist of technology. In this paper I argue that Goffman's early studies are replete with materiality and technologies. By paying more attention to mundane and invisible technologies, such as merry-go-rounds, surgical instruments, and doors, I argue that Goffman's interaction order can be shown to be materially and technologically framed, staged, and mediated. Important notions such as "role distance," "front stage," and "backstage" turn out to depend crucially upon materiality and technologies. When it comes to studying the internet there is thus, in principle, no fundamental distinction to be drawn between online and off-line interaction; both are forms of performed, staged, and mediated interaction. I show how Goffman's notion of copresence can be extended to the study of the internet and speculate as to what a sociology of material performativity, which combines interactional sociology with the insights of Social Construction of Technology, might look like.