On Constructing the Self and the Other in Imitation Game Experiments: The Role of Interactional Expertise in Multicultural Societies

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Daria BAHTINA, Finnish Centre of Excellence in Research on Intersubjectivity in Interaction, Finland
Intersubjective differences are often used to construct the image of ‘the other’ (Kapuscinski 2008) and cement stereotypes that ‘invent the enemy’ (Eco 2012). The threat of a social divide is even bigger in modern societies: in addition to classical majority/minority tension there is a shift towards polarization as a result of changing media landscapes. Estonia presents a good case study, with over a quarter of Russian-speaking population. Estonian restoration of independence in 1991 upon decades of Soviet occupation led to Russian losing its dominant status of ‘majoritized minority’ (Ozolins 2003), which nowadays is reflected in a complex mix of unresolved tensions but also merged identities and new opportunities to build social cohesion. In this paper we propose an innovative research method to address the processes of social group construction in this multicultural reality.

We use the imitation game format adapted from Turing’s Test (1950) to explore the dynamics of group formation and maintenance through interactional expertise. The latter is claimed to complement formal propositional knowledge and embodied skills as interlocutors try to understand the conceptual structure of the social world of the other (e.g., Collins & Evans 2002, Collins 2004). In our experiments the participants are involved in an interactive game: their task is to display their actual membership, imitate belonging to another social group, or provide a judgement about another person’s identity as recognized through interaction. We seek to replicate findings from previous studies that demonstrate a striking difference between how majority and minority groups use these resources in social interaction. These results and the data from focus group interviews are expected to shed more light on how fluid various social boundaries are and indicate which elements are used to construct relevant identities. The insights have the potential to avert conflict situations by promoting the acceptance of diversity.