The Modern Evolution of the Concept of Self


William Charles Winn


The twentieth century has seen many changes in the relationship between the self and society. The root of many of these changes is the advancement in the technological evolution of communication assimilation between society and the individual. The mass media developed in the twentieth century has given the individual a greater social perspective, and created a psychological transformation of the process of the concept of identity (self) and its interaction with its social environment. The following is an examination of two theories about the self that document historical viewpoints of the affect of media communications on the societies of their time periods. We shall bear witness to a fundamental change in these perceptions of the relationship between the self and society. Thus, we shall gain perspective on the exchanges of today’s interaction.


George Hubert Mead’s concept of the self, and Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical model of interaction provide historical viewpoints on the subject. In their examination of the development of the self, they pose a question. Does the self develop through a process of social exposure and education (Mead), or do we learn to act out socially prescribed roles for each given situation (Goffman)?


To hypothesize, let us view the mind as a complex computer. There exist a variety of social inputs (experiences or examples) that are stored and processed for retrieval in the formation of outputs for interaction. Mead and Goffman both recognize this action, but their evaluations of how inputs are received and analyzed are conceptually different. The main disagreement uncovered is about how they view the makeup of the self.


Mead sees the self as a process of internal social conversation, a continuous exchange of information. How a person interacts depends on the perceived answers to the following questions: “How do “I” want to respond to a given situation?” and “How does society expect me to respond?” When a compromise is reached the agreed upon action is taken.


According to Mead this exchange is continuous. The self is constantly examining the “I” and the “Me” aspects of every social experience, including while in dream. Each new experience adds to the power of the “I” to decide what it wants, as well as providing clearer view of what the “Me” expectations should be. In this way, Mead discloses the bond between individuals and their surroundings.


For Mead, “ones self” is experienced through the individual’s relationship with society. All of the “I’s” motivations are located through interaction, and the “Me” expectations provide the means to obtain them. This creates an exchange. We present ourselves differently to one another depending on the value of their relationship to our “I” as well as the perception of the expected “Me” of the encounter.


According to Mead, The process begins in childhood. Childhood play is an initiation into the world of social interaction. It is a process of education that is separated into two different stages: the play, and the game stages.



The play stage is similar to what you call “monkey see, monkey do.” The child copies actions that are associated with adult roles. While playacting mother, father, doctor, etc. the child imitates the actions of those whom he or she comes in contact with. However, the child learns to associate different actions with different people. Mead also points out that during this stage there is no unity to the child’s actions. There exists little or no understanding of the meanings of the actions to the different roles in the adult world. This stage is just for mimicking that which the child experiences. It is in the game stage that individuals become aware of the fact that various actions connect them into an interactive system.


When a child starts to play games, it recognizes that it must perform certain functions to keep the game going. It is here that children discover the importance of themselves in relation to others. The rules of the game provide an introduction to how one accepts “Me” roles, and the taste of victory creates desire, and the “I.” With this analysis of the play and game stage, Mead closely parallels the dramaturgical model of interaction developed by Erving Goffman.


The individual’s actions in Erving Goffman’s model are similar to that which occurs in Mead’s play and game stages. The way in which Mead views a child mimicking adult roles, and conforming to “Me” social expectations is a simplistic view of how Goffman explains the development of the self.


Goffman sees the self as a collection of “Me” roles. An individual goes through life gathering up a multitude of identities that are drawn from in order to interact with others. Each situation that individuals find themselves in has a pattern for interaction to be acted out. These patterns are called “roles,” and the action of acting them out is called “role performance.” The role and its performance are developed in the following ways:



If the person or group (role others) with whom one is interacting or exchanging are of former or close acquaintance, then the pattern of performance comes from one of the developed “Me” roles, or identities that had been stored within the self. Goffman describes this by saying that we are people of appearance. Each new exchange adds to the clarity of the expected performance of each side of that specific interaction. We can define the closeness of two individuals by the amount of rehearsal that they have had acting out their ”role performance” with each other.


On the other hand, if the individuals have no previous interaction, then the performance is one of improvisation on the perceived definition of the interaction. During the new acquaintance both sides develop a new “Me” role that is to be stored until the next meeting. Each side is essentially taking notes on the other person’s actions, and in turn is playing off what they sense for perceived optimal outcome. Goffman calls this action the process of “role making.” He describes the motives of “role making” in the following statement:


When an individual appears before others his action will influence the definition of the situation which they will come to have. Sometimes the individual will act in a thoroughly calculating manner, expressing himself in a given way solely in order to give the kind of impression to others that is likely to invoke from them a specific response he is concerned to obtain.

                                                      (Goffman, 1959)


For Goffman, one experiences one’s self as many selves. The individual‘s image adjusts to enact the role performance that best depicts the “I’s” own self-concept in any given social environment. We are merely actors performing who we believe ourselves to be, and everyone else acts as critics judging our performance. Furthermore, each critic is perceived to be looking for different things. We gear our performance according to what response we want from them.


To compare Goffman to Mead in Mead’s “I-Me” terms, Mead’s “I” is no longer a motivating, socially analytical hemisphere of the self. Goffman views it as a perception of what people think they are. Mead’s “Me” transforms from a social expectation or demand into a defined role to be acted out. Mead’s self is developed through a process of continuous “I-Me” conversation, where the inputs of social experience are analyzed until a suitable compromise is met. In turn, this compromise is recorded for use as references for future conversation over new interaction. Goffman’s self is a collection of “Me” role patterns that are discovered, defined in sense of purpose, then stored in memory for performance in future interaction. The result is to create the appearance that individuals create an identity or personality of what they perceive themselves to be in any given circumstance. For Mead, one’s self is experienced through contact, evaluation, and compromise in relationship to personal motivation, and for Goffman, through the performance of multiple learned identities enacted to influence an interaction.


Society exchanges. When exploring the world of interaction, one must keep this in mind. In the previous sections, we took a look at the theories developed by George Hubert Mead and Erving Goffman. We saw substantial difference in the way the mind creates or adapts the self for any given situation. They were documenting interaction or exchange from different technological environments. Mead analyzed the social interaction of the early twentieth century, and Goffman that of it’s middle. The following is an examination of some of the advancements of exchange that surfaced in the twentieth century and their relevance to these theories of the self, society and interaction.


The twentieth century was a period of rapid, continuous change in the semiotics of society. Technology in the areas of transportation, communication, and in education had greatly expanded the perceptual scope of an individual. Since there existed more access to information, the makeup and processes of the self had become more complex. All of the selves together form civilization, and civilization is interlocked through the interaction and exchanges of each individual self. Therefore, the processes of interaction had become more complex due to the amount of semiotic and sensory information passed into and registered in the mind for use in social exchange.


Goffman and Mead’s theories must have been products of what they socially exchanged with their society’s communication technologies of their given time periods. They differ because of the way that the self and interaction adapted to the semiotic expression technologies of the day. They are related because they are exploring the human being and its relationship to civilization. In other words, Goffman essentially began where Mead left by witnessing an evolution. Furthermore, each theory is accurate for its time. Each acts as a documentation of the prevailing make up of the self and its exchange with its present.


Again, the mind can be simplistically viewed as a complex computer, where there exist a variety of social inputs (experiences or examples) that are stored and processed to form outputs for behavior. Technology has made its greatest impact on the amount and variety of social inputs (sensory information) available. Communication, in all forms, is social input.


A basic element of communication is language and its use in conversation. When we exchange in conversation we receive information. This is input. Conversation is an example of one form of input. Another example is written word. Up until the twentieth century, conversation and written word were the primary forms of daily mass social input. Throughout the twentieth century, man witnessed the development of an extremely vast new form of exchange; that of electronic mass media.


To show the influence of the growth of electronic mass media on the makeup of the self, we shall explore a parallel history of the twentieth century media with our two given theories about the self. By examining the increase in the amount and variety of social inputs in relation to these theories about the self, we can better understand how those theories were constructed, as well as, how the exchange of self has adapted over the years and the advancements of media technology.



George Herbert Mead lived around the turn of the twentieth century. During this period, there existed relatively few forms social input (few in relation to the amount existing today). There was conversation, written word (books, literature, newspapers, etc.), theater and early radio broadcasts. All of these relied on the imagination of the individual to analyze and interpret the exchange. This use of the processes of imagination, comprehension, and interpretation for social input analysis is the sensory processing for Mead’s “I-Me” internal conversation. The following flow chart is a summary of Mead’s concept of self during exchange:



(Conversation, written word, radio)




/   \

/     \

/        \

/            \

“I” Analysis                  “Me” analysis

(How do I want to react?)                             (How does society

                                                                          want me to react?)

\                       /

\                    /




Internal Conversation




Compromise and Storage





(Exchange, Interaction)


For Mead, exchange is separated into two influences; that of the individual’s desires vs. that of the perception of societal demands. Also, the forms of mass societal input of the time were not comprehensible, nor distributed for all members of society. There existed barriers of language, education and accessibility. The inputs relied on the acquired semiotic interpretation skills of the individual for their meaning to be realized. Therefore if any of the social input of Mead’s time were to be used as references for interaction or exchange, they must have been analyzed by the process of Mead’s theory of internal conversation according to the understanding and ability to interpret of the meaning of the exchange. In this way, Mead’s “self” closely corresponds to the sophistication of the forms of social input experienced in that time period. Therefore it can be hypothesized that in any society where the daily social inputs are only those of the early twentieth century, the makeup and workings of the self should be that of Mead’s. (Please note that during Mead’s lifetime, radio, as an early form of daily mass communication was in its early development and distribution. Therefore, as a social input, it had little bearing on Mead’s analysis. The same can be said about the influence of early motion pictures.)


Mead died in 1931. In the years to follow, the world witnessed an expansion of social input due to the advent of electronic mass media. Radio became commonplace, and the popularity of motion pictures grew in significance. Radio and film were making it possible for larger numbers of people hear or see something happening in distant locations. For the first time, whole societies could experience the same social input at the same time. A simple radio broadcast essentially linked all of the selves within its range into one interaction or exchange. An example of the influence that this had on a society was the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich in Germany.


The Nazi party took over the German society through an exploitation of the medias. Hitler and propaganda master, Josef Geobbles, flooded all forms of social input with socially motivating promotion. Radio broadcasts of powerful speeches matched with inspiring Nazi literature bombarded the senses and social exchange of the German people. The sight and sound of the Third Reich proposition seduced the nation into a new social order. The people united around their belief in the propaganda. Within one decade of its defeat in World War I, Germany reclaimed its military productivity and a perception of genetic dominance. The artificial development of a belief of superior hereditary genetic heritage matched with the choice of a perceived common enemy united the German society into performing the attempted genocide of Jewish population. The exchange created in the medias provided a subliminal proof of a threat from Jewish population.  The economic and sociological weapon of monopolizing the exchange of the input of the mass communications of the time was used in the manipulation of the social input of the German people causing a lethal cultural psychosis. This process has been repeated time and again in human history, and is prevalent today in Muslim nations with the enemy being the United States.



The development of film throughout the twentieth century had created the highest and most influential forms of communication medium. Film, unlike other forms of communication, leaves little room for the imagination to analyze that which it receives. The social exchange is a perfect visual and audible recreation of sensory perception of real life. It can, not only closely imitate real life interaction, but it can also visualize thought as it appears to the individual. Dream can be recreated. Emotions of fear, ecstasy, sorrow, anger, and hostility can be inflicted on the audience. Even time can be displaced. With the proper technical ability and creativity, the filmmaker can put his or her audience just about anywhere, and in just about any mood.


However, the filmmaker does not have complete control over its audience although the impact of early motion pictures was extraordinary on its audiences. As the technology behind film and filmmaking had evolved throughout the century, so had the expectations and sensitivity of the film audiences. In comparison to the audiences of early film, today’s audiences are less easily moved by visual and auditory manipulations created by the filmmakers. Today the filmmakers must pay strict attention to details and realism. Flaws are easily picked out, and destroy the effectiveness, profitability, and survival of a film and its creators.


Film has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Everyday hundreds of thousands flock to the theaters or to their televisions to view films of one sort or another. It has become very much a part of everyday life. In fact, many of today’s children find their first friends in characters in cartoons and other children’s programming. Films educate and communicate to us the world around us. It is a great part of our daily social input. However, you can only watch and listen to film. You cannot interact with the characters on your television, nor can you jump in and live in the life of someone created on the screen. Film is a recreation of two major sensory inputs mimicking thought and dream, but it is not life. The individual absorbs a “Me role performance examples with a subdued non-influential “I” of Mead’s observations.


When one sits in a theater and begins to watch a film they become part of a captured audience. You are embarrassed to speak or get up, the room is dark and all there is the auditor and visual input of the film. This is when film has its greatest effect and the social exchange of the media is the most sensory influential. The image is larger than life, and the sound permeates the room. Furthermore, you have paid an economic exchange to be there so you are determined to get you money’s worth. You complete attention is coaxed into focusing on the film. It is a special occasion and effort to go out to a theater and view a film. Just getting dressed and driving to the theater adds to the expectation of the forthcoming viewing. It is a different when watching film on television.


Television viewing of film or any other of form of television communication is more passive than theater viewing (although today’s advances in technology is attempting to close the gap with the advent of quality home theater systems.) The senses and concentration is not as effected by the smaller screen, the image is not as sharp, and your attention is not as captured. Needless to say, it is not the most effective way of viewing major motion pictures. However, television brings film into the home. Television and film are presenting inanimate forms of a multitude of “role others.” Although it doesn’t take in input spontaneously, it has the impression of a social exchange by displaying “Me” roles, by power of example.


Television and film characters are developed to provide models of the roles to be played during different interactions, since many actors become wealthy and famous, they become idyllic symbols and characteristics of their acting can be borrowed for real life interactions. Although it’s primary purpose was for entertainment, the advent of film and television had a profound effect on the processes of the self and interaction.



Erving Goffman had witnessed and hypothesized over this evolution of self in reaction to the influence of the influx of vast dynamic social input of “Me” role examples with the development of his dramaturgical model.


Erving Goffman’s Dramaturgical Model


Output                                   INPUT                                   Output
*                                          **                                          *

*                                      **                                      *

*                                   **                                   *

“Me”                               **                               “Me”

*                                  **                                  *

*                            **                            *



*              *              *

*                         *                        *

“Me”                       “Me”                       “Me”

*                                  *                                *

*                                    *                                 *

Output                                   Output                                 Output

(“i”) is merely a perception of who 

Individuals perceive themselves as in a given situation.


Goffman’s model, which was developed in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, shows the makeup of the self as a collection of the “Me” roles surrounding a perceived “i.” Input is in the form of new “Me” roles that are stored, and then acted out in interaction. He views the “i” as having no analytical power or influence on interaction, other than a definition of one’s concept of identity. Why does Goffman choose to eliminate the authority of Mead’s analytical “I?”


As stated earlier Goffman was writing about the history of his present. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, the advancement of film and television made it possible for the individual to collect a multitude of “Me” roles without actually processing a two-way interaction. For the individual, this was a somewhat confusing state of affairs and a problem for input exchange and adaptation. Right in one’s living room the individual could view input from around the world. Television was perceived as exchange information about how the world was, how it should be, how it could be, etc. It’s no wonder why Goffman saw the self as containing a non-influential “I,” it was suppressed by excessive “Me.” The mass media audience had been conforming to what it saw.


The force behind this conformity was the inability of the “I” to analyze the validity of the input. The old adage, “seeing is believing” applied. Culture reacted in shock to the massive amount of information realistically conveyed in both the film and television mediums. Televisions daily bombardment of social exchange was moving character information to the individual faster than it could be processed. The result, a psychological compromise: the playacting of the “Me” roles that were received through the exchange of conscious that television portrayed. Thus, creating a perception of conservative conformity in the United States in the 1950s. (What is curious about the Goffman model is its direct parallel to that of schizophrenia and the manifestation of multiple personalities within an individual.)


However, as we shall see, this sociological shock of film and television was eventually adapted to as the hidden influence of Mead’s “I” of social exchange emerged to influence a modification of the Goffman’s “Me” role form of playacting interaction model. This was caused by the technological advancement and distribution of the electronic mass media forms of social input that were being culturally accustomed to, and the sensory impact of the medium dissipated due to familiarity of their effect on sensory interpolation.



The late 1960’s brought forth the reawakening of the Mead’s drowned out “I” in American culture. The American youth, spurred on by the perception of the futility of the Vietnam War and the draft brought into the home by television, developed a paranoid psychotic break caused by the schizophrenic like social input process and analysis evident in Goffman’s dramaturgical model. The process of interaction was forced to evolve. Psychosis can be described as any thought process and behavior that occurs outside the range of a society’s acceptance or awareness. For example, violent rage is the psychosis of anger. The social difficulty of the amount of one way sensory information widely distributed to the mass media audience of the time was that it was not conditioned to accurately process it. As well, the creators of the communications did not comprehend the psychological effect on social interaction with the medium within the growing society of its audience. Every experiment with programming, whether good or bad, left its mark in the storage of the “Me” roles relied upon for interaction. This accidentally created a cultural psychosis driving a social evolution to adapt to the environment of the input.


The first generation of television children visually exposed to conflicting values, numerous roles to follow, manipulative advertising, and the visual and auditory graphic revealing of warfare in the medias, suffered a moral breakdown instigated by a paranoid conflict of self. The confusion caused by the mass social input of the time forced the “I” into questioning the validity of the cultural input environment. With the widespread experimentation of “mind expanding” drugs, the occurrences of artificial psychosis became a commonplace exchange within the self.  The interaction of the mind with its social environment, which could be described as, chemically induced alternate dimensions of reality, experienced the inability to conform to societal “Me” expectations of the era. They broke away from the social “Me” role expectations of the previous generation by growing their hair in defiance, and exchanging with music often created by participants of these surrealistic adventures of “mind expansion.” The music became an extremely forceful, and seductive form of social input that captivated its audience. Technology and marketing of the music industry advanced and music was readily available on radio and easily accessible recordings. It’s influential effectiveness increased with advancements in stereo and high fidelity.

       Ignited by the influence of the music and idols of the early Rock and Roll phenomenon, the participants removed themselves from society’s recommended exchanges and created their own, causing a cultural revolution. Although the “hippie” culture created in the 1960’s was truly not a huge cross section of the population, the attraction the movement depicted in the mass media due to riots, concerts, and massive gatherings of protest multiplied the influence of the seemingly psychotic influence of the culture into the conscious of society.


With the same effect of stardom in the motion picture industry, the financial windfall of the marketing of music industry built a following for the chemically experimental and frequently addicted musicians. This popularity transcended the following decades spreading the minimization of the fear and increasing the curiosity of experimenting with illicit “mind expanding” hallucinogenic chemistry. The legacy of the 1960’s era is preserved and honored in the “baby boom” generation, which is the controlling and largest generation of today. The music of the period is still popular and the artists are revered. In England, knighthood has been granted to several of the musicians. The producers of the re-creation of the visual and auditory effects of psycotropic hallucinogenic experience in motion picture and on television increased the attraction of altered reality experimentations as well.


Although there is no question about the evident genius of their artwork, a prevailing edict of the use of experimental psycotropic drugs is readily accepted in all aspects of society today due to the celebrity of the chemical experimentation of creative mass media idols. The influence has permeated human society in all generations since the mass media exposure of drug related creativity marketed in the 1960’s and beyond.


Although man has been using mood-altering substances since the beginning of the history of humanity, today the financial market created by this, whether use of legal medications or illicit drugs, is a staple in world economy. A market created in correlation with the evolutionary process of self and its adaptation of sensory interpolation of social inputs experienced. Whether in reality, fictional communications or manufactured through chemical experimentation, social input information is stored and used in interaction.



A wide philosophical and psychosocial gap had developed throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, and society began to examine the influences of mass media social input on the minds of children.  Mead’s “I-Me” conversation resurfaced in the process of gearing output in relation to personal desire or one’s definition of their identity, and society began to look into itself. Thus came the dawn of what was called the “Me generation” of the 1970’s where emphasis was placed on the individual and an examination of the inputs of society’s interactions. This included a great expansion of the research of psychotropic chemistry of all kinds.


During the 1970’s the American society began to evaluate the kind of influence that television was giving. Many efforts of limited success were made to eliminate sex and violence from the eyes and ears of children. Under pressure from the Federal Communications Commission the networks began providing “clean” programming during the prime time viewing hours. Greater care had been taken in the development of high quality educational programs for children, and thus began the replacement the often-violent cartoon favorites. However, changes made to protect the children were not the only ones occurring during this period.


After several decades of television and film viewing, the American society had adapted to dealing with the vast amount of social input that had been presented before them. The “self” of American society became seemingly mistrustful of what it was receiving during exchange. A very powerful, and intelligent form of the “I” consciousness emerged throughout the media audience that adapted to television and film influence. The belief was that the three major television networks of the time were misrepresenting, manipulating, and exploiting American society.


The American society began to turn its back on the monopolistic attitudes and manipulations of the major television networks of the day. An example of this was a large-scale anti-trust suit filed against the networks by the United States Department of Justice in the early 1970’s. In addition there was more public television funding and rumors of broadcasters forming new networks. However, new concepts in mass media exchange came on the market in the late 1970’s.


With the introduction of home video and cable/satellite Television, the choice of a very large variety of programming or social input developed for the individual and the home. Although wide spread usage of this technological achievement had not yet fully come into being, their growth had telegraphed a serious blow to the way in which society exchanged with television medium. More competition for audience would greatly improve the ability to choose between different social inputs and the quality and value of the exchange would improve greatly for each separate individual.


Today, sports, movies, education, and news are being presented on different channels. Video or DVD rental and recording is being facilitated, and accessibility to personal preferences is increasing through a variety of distribution channels. In this way, the television and film industry is providing its audience with the type of programming which an individual chooses to receive. Technology is again expanding the amount and variety of social input available to the individual, This choice has evolved naturally through the desire or impression of Mead’s “I,” and its effect on communications marketing strategy and technology.


We are presently in another transitional stage in the relationship between society, the self, and interaction. The advent of the Internet has broadened the scope of an individual’s ability to access a seemingly infinite amount of information on a worldwide scale. We shall see the relationship between the self and societies again evolve.



As we have seen, theories of the makeup and processes of the self have changed in correlation with the advances of communications in the twentieth century. This was caused by the increase of social input of daily exchange by the individual and the interactive environments. In order to discuss the evolution of the self in today’s cultures, we must combine George Hubert Mead and Erving Goffman’s work, and expose the adaptations of the self to its new levels of exchange or interaction. The self today utilizes aspects of both theories, and expands upon them in a continuous evolution.


Throughout the later decades of the twentieth century we have witnessed a reawakening of Mead’s “I-Me” internal conversation due to the choice, accessibility, and adaptation of society to the variety of social input. However, there are still strong influences of aspects of Goffman’s dramaturgical model affecting interaction. The result is a “self” prepared to interact with a more complex process with which to exchange. The increase in the amount and variety of twentieth century input has caused the self to adapt to its evolving environment, thus the theories of the self must also adapt. The dynamics of this new interaction between the self and society that now exists is more intense, yet is derived from the previous theories. A model for the self today is as follows:






/  \

/     \

/        \

“I”        “Me”

\     /

Internal Conversation


“Me role example referrals”


Internal Conversation


Compromise and Storage




As it seems, input follows the same path that it did in Mead’s model. It is first analyzed and then conversed over. Then, it is analyzed by a second function. It searches for a “Me” role portrayal to re-create output, and then reevaluated again to choose the best output in correlation with the individual’s “I”.  Then, the action is decided upon and stored for future reference. Through the greater amount of social input found in today’s society there exists a greater “Me” role example inventory to search through. The very ethnology of an individual is devised by the editing of this inventory. However, there is the ability to be influence by strong “I” awareness to each action. The individual is not merely playacting roles in every occasion, but relies on its “I” motivations to guide interaction. For example, the use of playacting takes place when the “I-Me” conversation is unable to come up with a response, and the individual ends up searching for a “Me” role to present as output.


Today, the exchange of an individual requires more sophistication in the manufacturing of an output for interaction. Mead’s “I” has a dominant authority. This is how the individual keeps control over the vast amount of information that it receives. Unlike Goffman’s model, where an individual exchanges primarily through playacting, today we have adapted to the amounts of input, and are capable of individuality through Mead’s “I.” Mead and Goffman were both correct for the states of interaction in their time period, but were unable to bare witness to the evolutionary process that alters the self and interaction by technological advancement.



The twentieth century had been a period of rapid advancement in the technologies of the mass medias, as we have explored, this growth in communications has had a profound effect on the relationship of social exchange between individuals and their surroundings. The ideas and philosophies of each separate culture have become more readily available and effectively expressed to the senses of their members. Consequently, the individual has become more astutely aware of their choices of interactions.


Over the years, different theories about the self reflected the growing complexity of the way in which an individual interacts with its environment. George Hubert Mead and Erving Goffman provide valid explanations of the way in which individuals respond in interaction. However, their validity corresponds primarily to the time periods in which they lived. Any truly relevant theory about the self must take into account that the social exchange between individuals and their society’s changes over time and technological advancement. Evidence of this process is also seen in the life cycle of an individual, and the education of exchange received throughout life. As we get older and more informed and adapt to new forms information stored within, the level and complexity of our process of interaction expands.


Through the later part of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first the development of the adaptation of the interaction of self with its particular environment (education or assimilation of social input storage) has caused an increase in the necessity of a faster pace of the development of the interpolation skills of an individual from birth to adulthood. The enhancement of reason capabilities is essential in the ability of an individual to successfully participate within their social environment. Advancements in psychotropic and physiological medications in this time period has been evolving to aid individuals with the psychological and physical effects of the adaptation of an individual to modern society (necessity is the mother of invention).


The widespread treatment of stress, depression, and other mental illnesses caused by the inability to properly process the overwhelming influx and sophistication of social input or information has advanced the science of artificial manipulation of body chemistry (psychiatry) to control the psychosis (breaks from socially accepted thought and behavior) of the evolutionary adaptation to modern society. As well, the advancement and widespread distribution of “illicit” psychotropic experimentations has developed new forms of psychological abnormalities or inabilities driving the need for pharmaceutical chemical experimentation to conform psychotic behavior into the social accepted range. The need for anti-depression and anti-psychotic medications is embattling the chemical differences or abnormalities (considered mental illness) of individuals in hope of creating an acceptable state of artificial mental control and conformity to accepted realities and behaviors.


Chemical experimentation, accepted and illicit, psychological (for example anti-psychotics for schizo-affective disorders) and physical (steroids for enhance physical performance), is naturally advancing the evolution of civilization. The effect is akin to the theory of the “invisible hand” described by economists in relation to the natural phenomenon of the motivations driving the concept of capitalistic or free market economy. The financial reward of successful marketing of chemical experimentation reacting to the advancement in communication technology in both medical and illicit drug distribution is directly motivating an accidental alteration of the complexity of the self and its adaptive capability of exchange in the mind. Thus, driving forward the destiny of evolutionary history of man’s relationship with his environment. The guiding force of the phenomenon and its purpose is beyond the scope of human comprehension and reason, but is defined and understood through the psychological and often illogical belief systems of languages of religion around the world, which were also designed for social conformity of populations. This is similar to the use of psycotropic medication on the individual (whom is the microcosm of civilization), and their ability to adapt in relation to their social environment. Chemical conformity experimentation is science’s current solution to the control of psychotic (anti-social) behavior at a bio-chemical level as compared to the psychological manipulation of an individual in the repetitive performances of the rituals of their faith.


Both are a metamorphosis of the innate desire of world dominance present throughout the history of man whether military, political, or by use of religious semiotic manipulation. Each of the vehicles used are products of the technological influences on social input and the processes of interaction between the self and society throughout the different time periods and the manipulation of the current levels of adaptive capability of the human condition during each point in the history of each culture. The reality of the failure of each attempt at ruling all human cultures is due to the lack of distribution of a unique, all encompassing vehicle of social exchange technology that can be understood and similarly processed by each individual on a global scale.



Man had created the computer in the image of his perception of the basic functions of the mind. The computer receives input, processes through set programs, stores the results in memory, and produces output. The mind experiences social input, processes it in terms of its relevance to the self (this can also be a definition of reason), stores the input and analysis for reference, and produces output in the form of interaction with the environment. Technology has made its greatest influence on the amount and variety of daily social input.


As computer programs become more advanced with man’s desire for greater storage, and increased function, so does the framework of the self in response to the quality and quantity of social input being communicated. Mead provided a basic format of the process of the development of the self. His findings were based on a society of limited (in comparison to today) daily social input. Goffman’s work describes a self involved in a society adapting to the evolution of the mass medias. Today, man is in another adaptation period as the self becomes more critical and experienced in the evaluation of the vast amount of information available to interact with.


The nations or cultures of the world are still developing, constricting, and abusing their lines of communication. There exists a great variety of ways in which the relationship between the self of individuals and their societies are being formed. This is a good explanation of why there exists such a wide diversity in human cultures. Each culture, depending on the state of evolution of the sophistication of the social exchange, prescribes to different theories of the process of “self” and the levels of interaction. In societies with less influence of modern media and exposure to information, the simpler model of Mead will apply.  As the sophistication of exchange within each separate society or individual is technologically advanced and adapted to, the evolution of the process of one’s method of interaction evolves. However, through the advancements in the technologies of communications and availability of social input and the expansion of its distribution, man is well on his way to unifying the exchanges of the global village.


Today, much of humanity is beginning to have the ability to see itself as one community. Humanity walked on the moon. Humanity is afraid of nuclear extinction. Humanity has polluted the environment, and is fear of global warming. It is through the evolution of the “exchange” or “interaction” where humanity is coming to terms with its own predicament. With the advanced forms of communication created in the twentieth century and beyond, man has begun to capture, manipulate, and create new forms of sensory input, and communicate replication of thought through electronic mass media. We are now communicating with much more clarity, and achieving universal understanding through the technical advancement of exchange. Compromise between cultures is becoming more and more inevitable through the deterioration of barriers of communication between individuals.







George Hubert Mead and Erving Goffman were both accurate in their own historical hypotheses. Many times we interact by way of internal compromise between personal desire or identity and the perception of social expectation, or, as in an unfamiliar social environment, we act out a perception of stored input examples that attempt to give the most effective performance. In other words, one’s “self” is formed through evaluation of an individual’s perception of their motivations (“I”), and the performance of multiple learned personalities (“Me” role examples). We are given this ability through the vast amount and variety of daily social input that we acquire throughout our lifetime (gaining more information as we age), and its storage in memory to create output of interaction to the environment. Communication technology is evolving the relationship between the self and society by expanding the amount and variety of social input and its accessibility. Biochemical experimentation, both psycotropic and physiological, illicit or not, has become a vehicle for psychiatric adaptation to the psychological impact of new sensory social inputs and their interpolation’s effect on the mind and body. The “Invisible hand” guiding this metamorphosis of this process of the evolution of social exchange is a natural phenomenon of incomprehensible origin driven by the dichotomy created by economic motivation versus health science. This process is assimilating world cultures into one society bonded by technological advancements in communication, its distribution and adaptation. The global society’s “self” is being located by the evolution of the sophistication of the exchange between each individual and their unique environment. Survival for humanity is a summation of the continuous exploration of sensory input that is processed and stored, and then, by use of reason, is presented for optimum projected results in any given exchange with any given environment at the acquired ability, desire, and life experience of each unique individual.