Goffman in the gallery: interactive art and visitor shyness

Scott, Susie, Hinton-Smith, Tamsin, Härmä, Vuokko and Broome, Karl (2013) Goffman in the gallery: interactive art and visitor shyness. Symbolic Interaction, 36 (4). pp. 417-438. ISSN 0195-6086

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In an effort to facilitate public engagement, contemporary art galleries and museums house interactive exhibits incorporating digital media. Despite removing traditional barriers of cultural capital, however, these exhibitions now presume a level of technological and performative competence, which can feel equally intimidating to visitors. Reporting on an UK-based ethnographic study and using dramaturgical theory, we show how interactive exhibitions can evoke situational shyness in visitors, through the combination of a demand for active, performative engagement and the deliberate restriction of instructional and explanatory information. In this ambiguous setting, visitors search for a social script to guide their action, the absence or opaqueness of which creates self-conscious inhibition. Actors adapt to this resourcefully by looking toward others to provide a replacement script; these may be companion visitors, strangers, or imaginary audiences. Some visitors, meanwhile, demonstrate resistance by refusing to engage with the interactive art agenda altogether, preferring to assume a role of detached spectatorship.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Goffman;interactive art;shyness;interaction;scripts
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Depositing User: Susie Scott
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2014 12:47
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2017 15:58
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/49199

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