Inside the Fish Bowl: Application of Sociological Theory to Observations of State Government

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CONFERENCE: Symposium Of University Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE)

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Sebastian, Aleisha
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Sociologists observe, record, and systematically measure interactions between the various structures within a society. Over winter quarter, I served as a legislative intern for the Washington State House of Representatives. While fulfilling my duties as an intern, I observed interactions throughout the Capitol campus. By combing my own experiences as a state employee with observations of state government, special interest parties, and citizens during the legislative session, I entered into a participant observational study. I focused my studies on the multiple social roles and realities these groups of players experience, how they differ, and how they interact. From day one, I was told that Olympia is a fish bowl. Everyone is watching. There is no escape from the political scrutiny of the public’s unblinking eyes. I quickly learned that state government is a stage complete with props, costumes, theaters, and cameras. Each group has a role. Media, lobbyists, legislators, staff and the public all play their parts on a continuous stage for the entirety of session. Behind these roles, regular people function within an institutionalized setting focused on perfecting every performance. How does this affect their social realities? Social realities are personal, relative, malleable, and ever-evolving. Can one person change the social reality of another? How can this be done? Most importantly, how does this affect social change?