Encounters Of Cohesion

The research unit Encounters of Cohesion seeks to understand how civil society initiatives promote or disrupt cohesion at the level of individuals and their situated encounters and social interactions. Although a collective property, cohesion is firmly rooted in these micro-social relations, in dyads (couples, friends, acquaintances, etc.) as well as in small-groups, like families, work teams, or close-knit on- and offline communities.

The concept of the encounter goes back to Erving Goffman and broadly refers to situated interactions, for instance in dyads and small groups, that bear some form of organizational properties that enable and constrain interactions, such as norms, hierarchies, networks, and symbolic orders, all of which become relevant to civil society contexts and initiatives.

The overall goal of this unit is…

  • to understand how situated encounters, as in social exchange, debate, and negotiation, promote or disrupt behavioral dimensions of social cohesion, for example empathic concern, joint attention, behavioral synchrony and shared intentions;
  • to understand how characteristics of civil society initiatives, that is their organizational properties, ideologies, and political strategies affect situated encounters and interactions. Given the restrictions COVID-19 imposed on social life, we will pay particular attention to digitally mediated encounters and to interactions between humans and non-human agents, such as artificial intelligent systems.

To address our key questions, we will…

  • conduct a series of laboratory experiments and, in conjunction with the unit Subjects of Cohesion, survey experiments to estimate the causal effects of contextual and structural cues on cohesive interaction dynamics.
  • use in situ audiovisual and self-reported data on civil society initiatives’ actions (protests, gatherings, work meetings, etc.) to link interaction dynamics to cohesion outcomes using software-based interaction process analyses.

Project Participants

The Team

The people behind the INTERACTION IN CIVIL SOCIETY project