Mini-guide to Goffman's Frame Analysis


Frame - of / for the interaction, constructed as the common practically realized understanding of the meaning and organizational premises of interaction - of "what it is that is going on here":

"It has been argued that a strip of activity will be perceived by its participants in terms of the rules or premises of a primary framework, whether social or natural, and that activity so perceived provides the model for two basic kinds of transformation - keying and fabrication. It has also been argued that these frameworks are not merely a matter of mind but correspond in some sense to the way in which an aspect of the activity itself is organized - especially activity directly involving social agents. Organizational premises are involved, and these are something cognition somehow arrives at, not something cognition creates or generates. Given their understanding of what it is that is going on, individuals fit their actions to this understanding and ordinarily find that the ongoing world supports this fitting. These organizational premises - sustained both in the mind and in activity - I call the frame of the activity" (247)


Breaking frame - acts that (temporarily) break down or redefine frame. Cf.  "negative experience",  - out-of-frame, frame break etc. - losing face, flooding out etc. 
Reframing - ordering of events or acts in new frame - the "positive" side of frame break
 

Frames normally mediate the positive experience. The falling out of frame is negative, defined by what it is not, and here, the individual is engulfed, immediate. The positive, then, is our normal experience mediated by frame, where the individual has reserve (378 f.)

Psychoterapy is a deliberate manipulation of negative experience, intended  frame break. The therapist explicitly refers to what in the normal everyday frame is politely ignored, e.g. flushing, tears etc.  Therapy itself, with its "therapeutic space" uses frame - keyed as a time-space bracket - as a tool on a meta level: "Since this is psychotherapy, what you do or say must be regarded as significant of you and as debatable issue". Psychotherapy is applied frame analysis.

Reality, the real thing - a relative and relational concept: "literal events" are themselves keyed, framed, re-framed etc. 

Cf  Garfinkel's notion of "the case of the real thing" - it is a special cultural feature that everyday actions are seen as direct expressions of a person's intentions, will, mood, situation, character - "this 'directness' is a distinctive feature of the frame of everyday activity, and ultimately one must look to frames, not bodies, to obtain some understanding of it" (569).

Primary framework - of experience - either natural process or social interaction - not something outside and independent of frames, but that which serves as the ultimate reference points in framing

"Context can be defined as immediately available events which are compatible with one frame understanding and incompatible with others" (441)

Bracketing  - to fence off a frame so that the activity does not disturb or break down the more general, overall frame or the culture as a whole. E.g. the rituals that make it possible to undress in a clinic or in an art studio; the stage, theater hall etc. that help audiences know that the murder happening in front of them is not for real, or the physical, temporal-spatial, and symbolic delimitations of "therapeutic space" that allow (perhaps even urge) grown men to cry etc.

The boundary between frames - or the frame in itself as frame, so to speak -  is paradoxical: Belongs to both that which it frames, and that whithin which it frames. Cf. the doctor's white cloak which keys medical treatment / examination, distinguishes it from everything else (when doctor takes off her cloak she is off duty), and which "inside" it serve to remind participants that medical practice is going on (making it easier to e.g. talk about sexual matters). In other words, keys are indexical.

Key, keying - utterances or actions that signal the meaning of interaction to participants, including its laminations, its relation to primary framework etc.
Up-keying - keys that put on laminations, for instance a laughter or tone of voice that expresses or interprets an utterance as "joking", or phrasings that signal quoting like "he states that...", "according to...." etc.
Down-keying - keys that remove laminations, such as the words: "no, honestly", or (on occasions) the raising or trembling of voice, sudden shifts from joking to "being serious", sitting down after having vividly performed, curtain fall and bowing, taking off masks etc.

Fabrication, design - deliberate making of a difference between what is frame for some participants and what is for others, e.g. con games, "educational strategies"

Laminations - "layers" between the act and the (more!) literal act that it refers to, of or for which it is a model. The rehearsal of a play about a murder has at least 3 laminations, this text about it has 4, or actually 5 when it is used as example of a theory (....in fact, every time I use the previous statements another lamination is added, so I just stop here). Cf the notion of meta-communication in Bateson

Anchoring - the orchestration of the activity as activity in a primary framework. No matter how many laminations any activity is going on in the real world. An associate professor lecturing about the pedagogical methods used when rehearsing a play written over a novel (etc ad lib) - still needs to speak into a microphone of those on the back seats are to hear him, still needs > 18 pitch in his slides, has to take a sip of water once in while. Audiences need coffee breaks etc. ...

Tracks / channels - parallell tracks handled simultaneously in interaction (e.g. in conversation)
    Story line - the events and utterances primarily attended to
    Disattention channel / disattended events track - actions seens but unnoticed - like when I scratch my ear while talking
    Directional track - keying actions that establish sense of actions in story line, like when I clear my throat and unfold a piece of paper while rising             from my chair, or small expressions like "well, to be frank...", or "wait, wait, oh yes, here it is..." etc.
    Overlaid communication - side track to be noticed but not to disturb or regulate story line - like road-side advertisements, or 
           the blackboard with words and drawings about last session and this sessions
    Concealment channel - actions or utterances kept secret from one or more participants (whispers, secret notes etc.)

The participant: distingusih between
    Figure - the physical body moved around (the avatar)
    Strategist - the one who decides actions according to intentions
    Animator - the one who moves figure as intended by strategist
    Principals, stakeholders - those whith stakes and interests in actions and thus make it possible

Self - "is not an entity half-concealed behind events, but a changeable formula for managing oneself during them" (573)

(note that just as in Kierkegaard's famous definition "The self is a relation that relates to itself, or, rather, that about the relation that it relates to itself" - see if you read Danish this excerpt - the concept "self" is itself part of the definition of - well, of itself...)