Interaction

An entire sociological paradigm is based on action/interaction. Its focus lies on social practice and interactions between individuals.

As opposed to some rational choice models, social action is more than a result of individual decision-making and rationality: it relies on the knowledge and mutual interpretation of social roles (one’s own as well as those of others).

People act according to the meanings that things have for them. Certain meanings become established through situational agreement between people, and sociologist Mead, at the origin of interactionism, even defined society as “the organized set of interactions among diverse individuals”. However, meanings may vary between situations, from one person to another, and even for one person depending on the situation. Thus, things and their meanings are not pre-defined, but their definition is defined through interaction and mutual adjustment.

Sociologist Herbert Blumer, another of the founding fathers of interactionism, notes that an individual actor can be faced with three objects: physical objects (“things”), social objects (people) and abstract objects (convictions, ideas).

This is why context of interaction is crucial. Reality can only be understood by the contextual analysis of social action and the meaning given to certain things by people.

If analysis shows deficiencies in interaction, efforts have to be aimed at transforming dysfunctional environments (be they physical, social or abstract), and encouraging fructuous interactions by providing common grounds.

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