Friday, September 6, 2013

Formulation of "Through-Lines" and "Dramaturgical Pattern"

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” 
Søren Kierkegaard

"The appropriate size of the unit for conceptualizing a person is not a behavior but a life history."

Peter Ossorio

"You do not know that your intentions will be carried out but you can suppose that they will be. Then you must have an idea about the rest of your day. Don't you feel that solid line as it stretches out into the future, fraught with cares, responsibilities, joys, and griefs? In looking ahead there is a certain movement, and where there is movement a line begins."  
Constantin Stanislavski

"I spoke of performers and audiences; of routines and parts; of performances coming off or falling flat; of cues, stage settings and backstage; of dramaturgical needs, dramaturgical skills, and dramaturgical strategies. Now it should be admitted that this attempt to press a mere analogy so far was in part a rhetoric and a maneuver." 

Erving Goffman

Further thoughts on "Through-Lines and the Dramaturgical Pattern"  A Reformulation for Descriptive Psychology

"Through-Lines", a type of linked  Dramaturgical Pattern, is a conceptual tool for Descriptive Psychology's Dramaturgical Model. A more precise formulation:

Descriptive Psychology has:

Four components of the Person Concept:  Individual Person, Behavior, Language, and World

The Person as Actor, Observer and Critic

A Dramaturgical Model

"In the Dramaturgical Model, behavior is intrinsically and fundamentally a matter of creating and realizing personal and social dramas. Human lives are intrinsically and fundamentally dramatic in form."

"... a drama is a structured behavioral episode or series of episodes which makes sense to Us." (p. 290, The Behavior of Persons)

The Dramaturgical Pattern:  An Individual Person behaving as a Deliberate Actor, engaged in specific Social Practices based on their Significance, constructs a Real World that makes sense and can be represented using Language (“Essence is expressed by grammar” Wittgenstein).

Through-lines are significance-implementation-achievement patterns of social practices. Through-lines are the observed patterns of choice made by a person that reflect what the person finds intrinsic. Linked intrinsic social practices are through-lines. A set of temporally co-occuring through-lines, a "bundle", constitute some of the intentional aspects of the overall Dramaturgical Pattern for any meaningful duration up to and including a person's entire life span. (The word "world" derives from an old Anglo-Saxon locution that meant "the course of a man's life").  

Nothing necessarily ties the bundle together except that the varied  through-lines express the person's significant concerns enacted in the same life-interval. Sequential and co-occurring through-lines may be relatively independent, or have a dynamic relationship of interdependence, conflict, complementarity, inhibition, and so on. 

The overall Dramaturgical Pattern with its constituent through-lines involve a person's response to sought-after and unsought circumstances.  Accidents and the passage of time are the not chosen features of life that necessarily shape a person's history. A person's life also includes average expected challenges that follow from age, sex, gender, class, culture, appearance, etc. 

The overall Dramaturgical Pattern involves social practices independent from what an observer classifies as a through-line.  Some challenges and opportunities might happen infrequently resulting in "one-off" behavior hard to classify. The observer may be noncommittal about assigning such behavior as in or out of character for the person. Some social practices may not be part of a discernible through-line.  

A person creates his world in the wake of his progress. The observer-critic notes the quality and significance of how the actor's implementations create, change and maintain the actor's real world.

From a Observer's perspective, a through-line is a set of social practices, extended over time, that constitute the enactment of a status that is a significant aspect of a person's identity.  The Observer can be oneself or another.  

A person's self-knowledge of engaging in what she finds intrinsically significant will correspond to what she can acknowledge as in-character. Observers may differ about the adequacy or accuracy of such self-status assignments. 

Given continued relevance and opportunity, a through-line can appear, disappear and reappear. Significant changes in what a person finds intrinsically significant correspond to where a through-line may start and end.

There are as many through-lines as an Observer can potentially identify. 

Identification and Knowledge of Through-Lines:

To say that a Person "A"  knows one of Person "B's" Through-Lines, she would have observed that

A) "B" engaged in a series of social practices that

B) Share a common significance 

C) The specific implementation/performance of the practices

D) What the implementations achieved in "B's" world

E) What "B" knows regarding what the implementations achieved

F) How "B" appraised the consequences of the achievement

G) How "B" did or did not correct his course of action based on his appraisal of the consequences.

And produce

H) A significance description that encompasses A) through G) and names this particular through-line. (Reduce the details until a workable encompassing significance description is offered)

The through-line will describe improvisational creative engagements with the circumstances of a person's world in which a person's relevant personal characteristics are identified as making understandable the way the person acts given their opportunities and dilemmas. 

To the extent that an Observer identifies linked intrinsic social practices germane to the actor's identity, she will have identified a through-line.  She could just as well be commenting on the actor's world since she will be offering a commentary that links the actor's personal characteristics to the sort of world he finds, creates and maintains. 

The Descriptive Psychological concept "through-lines" resides in an intermediate zone between social practices and ways of life. People know how they expect to live their lives; looking back, their observer-critics can understand what they actually did.

Incomplete descriptions of through-lines that lack information regarding their Significance correspond to Dispositional descriptions of traits, attitudes, interests and styles. 

Examples can be found in the posting, "Examples of Through-Lines".

Monday, September 2, 2013

Through-Lines and the Dramaturgical Pattern

“Dealing with heterogeneous behavior patterns as a single type of behavior does nothing toward elucidating the pattern. And yet the understanding of such full scale patterns in real life is essential for understanding the behavior of persons.”  
Peter Ossorio, The Behavior of Persons

Everyone has a place on the stage of the World. Everyone is in the game. The stage has props and actors. The game has rules and boundaries.  The players have statuses assigned by themselves and others as they go about their different roles.  Some people are well cast for what they encounter and some are not.  At times people recognize the part they are playing, at times they don’t. How cognizant and well-cast is always a matter of “more or less”. 

Although there are reality constraints, how the drama or game unfolds is uncertain. The Actors are agents who play within and against the constraints. 

Living one's life involves improvisation.  There is no “script” except ex post facto; it emerges from the interaction. The Actors might be told what they should be doing, they may have plans, but such direction does not determine what actually happens.  The only certainty is that choices will be made and action will ensue.  Actions will follow from the opportunities and dilemmas that accompany each player’s unfolding circumstances given their individual and changing powers and dispositions.  Since it is improvisation, the actors will change each other as they interact, as their response incorporates the other player's moves.

The actual “through-lines” are visible only after the play is significantly underway. The game must be afoot. Although the actor knows what she finds significant, the observer-critic must watch and see. 

The script is the relevant historical narrative told from varied perspectives after enough events, enough social practices have happened for significant patterns of behavior to be intelligible. The appraisals and competencies that the actor actually brings to the circumstances shape the play.  This is only incidentally related to what the actor claims he intended.  (The road to Hell is paved with good intentions). People are only more or less competent and honest judges of their own powers and dispositions and only have so much to say about the circumstances and outcomes they meet.


What a person finds significant organizes their selection of behavior. Implementation rests on recognized opportunity and competence.  Implementation is the performance. I know what I am doing because I know what I am about. I make choices based on their significance to me. You understand what I am about by observing and thinking about my performances. Performances have achievements and consequences. Notable patterns of significance implemented over time with their corresponding consequences establish what I call “through-lines”.

Through-lines identify what is “in character” and “out of character” for an Actor. Keep in mind that some claims of something being “out of character” may be “in character”.  People can deny responsibility and disown their actions. It takes an observer-critic to point out when this happens.

Through-lines identify not just the organization of patterns of significance but the actor’s power and disposition to use what is achieved for corrective feedback. Through-lines are constituent treads of life's dramaturgical patterns.

Indentifying through-lines is an Observer's task, subject to all the dilemmas of observation, disagreement and negotiation. Notice that as an observer's task, the identification of through-lines involves an appreciation of the actor’s reckoning with the consequences of implementation.  Implementation, the performance of the intended act, achieves some new state of affairs. Consequences, to the extent known, are part of corrective feedback.

The Observer can be the Actor or someone else.

Corrective feedback can be effective or ineffective. Does the actor learn from his mistakes? Are mistakes even recognized? Does the actor have the know-how to do something differently when similar circumstances recur? 

The pattern of through-lines intertwined together over the course of life weaves a dramaturgical pattern of unfolding social practices: performances linked by their achieved consequence and significance.  People simultaneously and sequentially live on many fronts as they go about their lives. Some through-lines may appear consistent, while others may not. Some may appear for a time, disappear, later to reemerge. They may end in satisfaction or be abandoned in frustrated disappointment. They may be given up with insight or because of an absence of opportunity for expression. Some may seem to go on forever. 

The fundamental coherence of the dramaturgical patterns are that, in some manner, a person's life makes sense. The choices made are not random or arbitrary but follow from opportunity; follow from the significances that a person's values, knowledge, and competency allow. But people are complicated. Circumstances are complicated. Even knowing a person's true colors, they can still throw you for a loop. 

Life's a drama.  "All the World's a stage."