Symbolic Interactionism

Symbolic Interactionism--- Define: Symbolic Interactionism values the meanings that we give to events, places, etc. more than the mechanics of interactions. It examines how these meanings affect how we relate to each other and work together. Solidarity can be formed among a group when these symbolic meanings are recognized and fostered. A community can grow together around common goals and ideals (Phillips and Pitman, p. 26-27). Apply: Community development can use symbolic interactionism to help bring people together to create a common understanding and shared goals. When a developer takes time to learn the different aspects of the community that are considered important to the people involved, he or she can assist them in establishing goals for change. Adapt: A professional in the field of international affairs could use symbolic interactionism in their work. When travelling to other parts of the world to do business or address politics, an international affairs professional would benefit from understanding which values, traditions and people the host country assigns importance to and how to interact with individuals according to these accepted standards.


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  2. Dina de Veer said...
    Apply: Symbolic interactionism can be used in community development to learn the the value and meaning of different cultural traditions or customs. Knowledge of how the members of a community value events, places, and activities can provide insight into the meaning and importance of shared experiences amongst the population, and in turn help provide a basis from which to build unity and social cohesion with respect to community development.

    Adapt: Symbolic interactionism is essential to the field of anthropology. The meanings that people give to events, places, relationships, etc, varies significantly across location and culture and languages. The ability to understand and identify symbolic interactionism within anthropology is fundamental to an anthropologist's objectives of assessing how members of different communities (throughout time and space) view and approach different aspects of life.

  3. Apply: Every community has a culture; and traditions may be formed surrounding the meanings of symbols within the community. Thus, when organizers are trying to engage members in participation and bridge cultural gaps found within the community, it is necessary to understand the meanings of symbols within the community. The importance of this was demonstrated in the film, “Metropolitan Avenue.” The building that was built in the center of their community was known as the Projects, and this symbolized poverty, destruction, vagrants, and low class minorities. Therefore, community leaders need to understand what these symbols mean in order to effectively bridge the community. Leaders of the community should consider symbolic interactionism as a means to bring people together through creative means, such as cultural festivals.
    Adapt: In anthropology, researchers study the shared meanings in symbols found in different communities because it reveals information regarding their culture and people-group. Because this is true, in various meetings, small groups, and conferences, icebreakers are used to convey the common bonds that people have between each other. This is usually done through individuals relating to symbols, such as places, events, dress, people, and other things. Icebreakers are an effective way of demonstrating the commonalities between people, which makes individuals more likely to increase their interaction with each other due to their similarities.

  4. Apply: Symbolic Interactionism was thought by Herbert Blumer who was a sociologist. He also discussed it within Social Movement theory. A group of individuals or community use symbols as powerful tools to show the world who they are in a more just poetic way. When we use symbols to represent how we feel. There are three core principles to his theory such as meaning, language, and thought. In one of courses it is called Community Empowerment Through Creative Expression. One a week myself and other colleagues go to an alternative high school where we spend time with youth who are are seen at risk and who benefit from guidance, support, and creativity. In the beginning of the internship, we start with Question of the Day. My colleagues and I either come up with a question of ask the students what they would like it to be. An example of how this relates to Symbolic Interactionism. A few weeks ago the Q of the Day we came up with was "choose a symbol that you feel best represents you. I went first and I said a peace sign. Instantly, everyone knew why I picked the peace sign because they know from just looking at me that I feel strongly about peace for all. One of the students said, "a flower." She said that she felt that a flower represents beauty and that she sees that everyone has a beautiful thing to offer to this world. By merely going around the room asking students symbols that represented them, we found commonality, insight into who they are and gather a piece of their story. When working in communities it is a great to understand that not every community is the same. Therefore, there are different symbols that they live by. If a community feels strongly about a symbol it would be beneficial to understand why this simple has signifigant value. Symbols allow people to express who they are without actually using words.

    Exercises like asking students what symbol best represents them. Can help people who are working a helping profession because it helps break the ice when first getting to know someone. Instead of simply asking an individual what is their favorite color, ask them what is their favorite symbol or a symbol they feel best represents them. This exercise is empowering because it allow the individual to take ownership of who they are and what culture they belong to or identify with. It is important to know the power that symbols hold within themselves and how they are everywhere.