Walking towards the ‘Gestalt Performance of Self’

Mak, Connie (2020) Walking towards the ‘Gestalt Performance of Self’. In: The 7th INTCESS International Conference on Education and Social Sciences, 20-22 Jan 2020, Dubai.

INTCESS 2020 Dubai 20-22 Jan - Abstract - submitted - Connie Mak Leicester University.pdf
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INTCESS 2020 Dubai 20-22 Jan - Abstract - submitted - Connie Mak Leicester University.pdf
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Submitted for INTCESS – International Conference on Education and Social Sciences, 20-22 Jan 2020, Dubai,
Walking Towards the ‘Gestalt Performance of Self’
Connie MAK
Hong Kong Polytechnic University (College of Professional and Continuing Education)

The en-route consumer-practices have long been overlooked in consumer research, even though tastes, lifestyles and consumption practices are omnipresent on the street, on route to home and to places of work. Applied to a study of impression management and construction of professional identity based on the framework of Erving Goffman (1956; 1961;1963) and Pierre Bourdieu (1986; 1977; Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992), the rather new ‘walking-with’ method (Shortell & Brown, 2016) conducted over the to-and-from work routes proved to be effective in unearthing hidden memories and feelings of participants which were not found in the traditional sedentary interviews used in the same study. The resonant effect created by the physical surroundings and bodily movement generates valuable themes for understanding self-construction through cultural capital and habitus in the workplace. One of the pertinent findings to share in this paper is the ‘gestalt performance of the self”, which emphasizes the holism of presentation rather than individual meanings of things as we used to understand.
In the walking-with interviews, branded shops, service outlets and other lifestyle consumption seen on the street do not only stimulate participants’ recall on their use of resources for impression management but also reveal the holistic meanings and complementarity among individual possessions. The nuanced sharing of my participants on object-object (e.g. fountain pens and exquisite notebooks) and object-person (e.g. fountain pens and calligraphy skills) interaction suggests that relations among sign-vehicles (Goffman, 1956) must be well-comprehended and prudently articulated by the users. The symbolism will drift if the contextual others are not in rhyme. My data show that a fountain pen will fail to perform its high-brow meaning if there is no exquisite notebook or competent hand-writing to go with it. So do cuff links without quality dress shirt, or woman’s suits without make-up skills. Therefore, social distinction lies on ‘gestalt performance of self’, in which symbolic entities must be discerningly employed in conjunction with the relevant others through the lifestyle dispositions of the users.

The finding implies that if a person desires to project a socially recognized impression, the economic capital he or she relied on must be accompanied with the associated cultural capital. The accumulated competence through mundane practices (e.g. Warde, 2005; Watson & Shove, 2008) constitute the habitus that enables people to integrate and synchronize objects through their appropriated skills and tastes. This finding calls for a reflection on the notion of “we are what we have” (Belk, 1988; Dittmar, 1992; Wattanasuwan, 2005), as symbolic meanings of possessions in fact cannot be delivered without the cultural sense of the users in orchestrating possessions in a complementary way. Unlike what we used to understand in current literatures, my analysis will show that simply owning a possession or putting on an apparel does not warrant the successful expression of the symbolic meanings attaching to the things. The walking-with method has unveiled that symbolic meanings are in fact contextually expressed and constructed, in which cultural tastes and dispositions of the users must be in place to perform the gestalt presentation.

Keywords:impression management, cultural capital, habitus, social distinction, gestalt presentation/performance of self.
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N500 Marketing
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
ID Code:45848
Deposited On:25 Aug 2021 11:18

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