Beyond Bodily Co-Presence: A Micro-Sociological Study of Online Interaction Rituals

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Online interactions constitute an ever-larger part of our everyday lives. However, due to its roots in the study of face-to-face encounters, micro-sociology tends to consider online interaction as a weak substitute for its physical counterpart. The aim of this paper is to critically assess and further develop one of the most influential micro-sociological theories: Randall Collins’ Interaction Ritual (IR) theory. To this end, we conducted a qualitative, two-month longitudinal study of six World of Warcraft players. The players were both interviewed and video-observed while playing, in order to grasp the emotional and behavioral dimensions of their online IRs. Contrary to the prediction of IR theory, results showed that successful IRs with a high level of collective effervescence do take place in World of Warcraft. As such, the online IRs produced the ritual outcomes of group solidarity, emotional energy, symbols of membership, and standards of morality, which persisted for weeks. Our results add to the emerging evidence that IR dynamics may unfold in similar ways in online and offline encounters. This suggests that IR theory, and micro-sociology more broadly, should place less emphasis on bodily co-presence when theorizing the realm of online interaction.
Original languageDanish
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Publication statusPublished - 2024

ID: 391680828