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Tourists’ Facework Observation in a Museum Report (Assessment)

The study of a face and all its expressions is an important concept in linguistic studies. A facial linguistic study focuses on the ways in which we interpret others faces to acknowledge their needs. Depending on a situation an individual is going through, their facial expressions will always be different. If an individual is in a meeting, he puts on a serious face to match the importance of the situation. If the same individual is out having fun with friends, his facial expressions also change to suit the situation.

These facial expressions can also change during an interaction, for example if the individual is out with friends but receives an urgent call in regards to a work project that is not going well, his expression changes to suit the new development. This essay seeks to use Goffman’s notion of face work to analyze data collected earlier through observation.

The data for the exercise was collected at a local museum. My group and I divided ourselves into two sub-groups of two each and set up in different areas of the museum. We spent a total of one-hour observing tourists movements, their interactions among themselves and with their guide. We also joined the tourist groups and interacted with them asking questions such as where they were from if they are enjoying the city and what they find enjoyable in the city so far.

Data was also collected from observing different guides, how they interacted with their groups, how they explained the material, how they engaged with the tourists, what pace they moved at and how they gauged the tourists understanding of the material. The below is an analysis of the exercise using Goffman’s terms.

The tourist guide had a variety of expressions on his face. He smiled when he wanted to lighten up the mood and move the group along. He was serious when he was mentioned historical accounts and facts. Not once did the guide have an air of uncertainty because he knew his material well and was confident about it. He held a guide book in his hand but never opened it to confirm anything he was saying. The tourists listened to the guide asking questions whenever something was not clear.

They were visibly engaged and interested in the guide’s explanation. When the guide was talking the tourists did not chat with each other but rather they all paid attention to the guide. According to Goffman, a line should present a view of the actor as well as deal with how others in the group view the actor. In this case, the guide chose a line and took a stand. Noting the nature of the interaction, the tourist’s consciously recognized the line and also chose to follow it.

According to Goffman, face is the presented image of self. The guide had many facial expressions depending on what he was talking about or what action he wanted the group to engage in. The group easily picked up on his facial expressions and used it as a direction on what to do next. The guide also easily picked up on the tourist’s facial expressions so he could make the experience an interesting one. Goffman states that once an image is presented both feelings and emotions become attached to it. For example, the guide used the tourist’s facial expressions to gauge his performance. If they looked bored, he felt bad and changed his approach to making it livelier. He was, however, careful not to let his hurt feelings reflect on his face since it would change the line he had initially started out with.

Goffman states an individual presents an air of confidence when they maintain face. He also states that for an individual to maintain face both his actions and the perception of his actions by others are considered. In the case of the guide, he maintained face the whole time he was talking. He never looked at the guide book and was always confident. He explained about the exhibitions in a clear and detailed manner and paused for questions. He once in a while told funny anecdotes to keep the group engaged. The tourist’s paid attention to the guide since he made it more lively and easy to follow. The guides air of confidence made the tourists pay more attention since he seemed he was very conversant with the artifacts history.

As the tourists listened to the guide, one of my colleagues left their observation post and joined the group for some one-on-one interaction. He first smiled at a couple once he was standing next to them. They smiled back slightly and moved aside to create more room for my colleague. They seemed very interested in whatever the guide was talking about. My colleague started talking to them, and the tourists responded in one-word responses. My colleague then proceeded to ask them questions about where they came from and how they liked the city.

The tourist’s facial expression suddenly changed to one of annoyance. The tourists told my colleague that they wished to listen to the guide and ended the conversation. This shows that indeed each and every encounter produces a different face and line that leads to implications beyond these encounters. My colleague made more rounds with the group, but the couple avoided standing next to him due to their earlier encounter. We can see in this case that each encounter has an implication.

The second subgroup joined a different tourist group and moved all through the museum with them. The guide was not confident and constantly checked his guide book. The guide was not very engaging thus the group did not seem interested in the tour. The tourists seemed bored, disgruntled and were complaining within themselves that they only saw the artifacts but never got to learn more about them. The tourists scattered about taking photos of themselves and other artifacts the guide was not focusing on.

The group did not look as though it had a leader. The guide never answered a question satisfactorily from the start of the tour, and he constantly looked like he was panicking. The guide showed the wrong face from the beginning. This discredited him to the second group, and he could tell from their facial expression. The guide’s line made the encounter an awkward one. This encounter made the tourists feel confused.

The tourist’s confusion left the guide feeling inferior and dissonant within himself. This shows Goffman’s theory that internal emotions whether positive or negative, connect with faces and lines from interactions. The more the guide saw the tourists losing interest, the more nervous he because thus further altering the line he initially started with.

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IvyPanda. (2020, September 11). Tourists' Facework Observation in a Museum. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/tourists-facework-observation-in-a-museum/

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"Tourists' Facework Observation in a Museum." IvyPanda, 11 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/tourists-facework-observation-in-a-museum/.

1. IvyPanda. "Tourists' Facework Observation in a Museum." September 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/tourists-facework-observation-in-a-museum/.


IvyPanda. "Tourists' Facework Observation in a Museum." September 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/tourists-facework-observation-in-a-museum/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Tourists' Facework Observation in a Museum." September 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/tourists-facework-observation-in-a-museum/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Tourists' Facework Observation in a Museum'. 11 September.

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