Backstage Pass

Our work brings us into intimate contact with people in their own environments, and we often get to see “back stage.” (Sociologist Erving Goffman used a model based on theater to talk about how people manage behavior in their everyday lives, referring to front stage and back stage realms and the differences in impression management that occur in each.)

There’s a moment that regularly occurs during fieldwork visits where the person we’re meeting with takes us into a hitherto shut room, opens a closet door to reveal something private, or simply goes to a new level of honesty and revelation in their discussion with us.

Places too have front stage and back stage elements, though these are often less closely guarded than those of individuals.

Here, front and back stage at a San Mateo ramen shop…

And below, explicit instructions to employees on how to transition between the front and back stage realms at an Alameda supermarket.


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