Developed by Ernest Bormann, Symbolic Convergence Theory focuses on the cohesion levels of a specific group of people through the shared meanings and lingo that are exclusive to that particular group. When a group member wants to create a symbolic convergence, he or she creates a dramatized message that uses imaginative language to describe an event. If that dramatized message is accepted by each group member, that message then becomes a group fantasy. When a group of people creates fantasies within the group, group cohesion increases because the meanings of catchphrases and events are contained with that group, thereby cultivating a higher sense of belonging and inclusivity.
Cultural aesthetics range from big to small. Pop music, politics, and trending movies all influence a broad spectrum of American culture, but culture isn’t necessarily required to span from sea to shining sea. Different states are comprised of different cultures; consider the urban jungle of Washington D.C. or the cornfields of Indiana. Continue narrowing your focus; examine the differences between Richmond, Virginia, and Rustburg, Virginia. These cities are in the same state, yet their cultures are vastly different.
This week’s cultural aesthetic is very, very small. It pops up in universities and businesses across America, but most rise and fizzle within weeks. We’ve all experienced it, yet we’ve all had different experiences with it.
Cultural aesthetic lives in the midst of rubrics and library study sessions. It impacts group norms and storms, and the aesthetic your group creates embodies and represents who and how your group wants to be. I’ve been part of soooo many group projects as a Communications major, but some died while others thrived.
My all-time favorite group project was a team called “Dad Jokes.” We were numbered off and randomly paired together, and we journeyed through seven major assignments and an entire semester’s worth of lectures as a team. Within minutes, we decided to call ourselves “Dad Jokes” because we all thrived off of dad-style humor and our mutual desire to take a relaxed approach to our work. To our shock, our group meshed well and had a blast. We always met over a meal, and we were super relaxed in our group norms. We had almost perfect attendance in class, and we all got on the same page with one another with ease. For some wild reason, we thrived.
The crowning moment of our team’s adventure was when we based our entire 200-point final project on a random topic, breakfast. Too hungry to think straight, someone suggested breakfast as a joke, but after a few minutes of lighthearted discussion we realized we had stumbled upon a stellar topic. We created a 20-page outline of our problem, our solution, quotes, and scare tactics, and we brought three dozen donuts to class on the day of our presentation. Every other group presented on serious topics such as abortion, juvenile delinquency, transgender athletes, and violent social media, whereas we stood in front of the class and discussed the importance of the morning meal in countries around the world while munching on Dunkin’. For our group, our topic matched our aesthetic perfectly; we joked all semester long and then took one of our jokes and created a memorable presentation. We were known for our ability to get along with one another and our good-natured attitudes, and other groups complimented our group norms and group culture.
Our group discovered how to apply Symbolic Convergence Theory in the best way possible. We created our dramatized message of “Dad Jokes;” then, because each group member accepted it, “Dad Jokes” became our team’s fantasy and our brand. We maintained many inside jokes that created high cohesion, and we focused on embodying our team’s name in everything we did. Our fantasies ranged from Chick-fil-A to videos of Tina to jokes about a pencil, and only the five of us knew why certain phrases were so funny.
To this day, the five members of that group still fondly recall Team Dad Jokes and get excited whenever we have classes together. We all remember the cultural aesthetic we created in our group, and we all still talk about that one time we scored a 100% for talking about breakfast for 20 minutes while eating donuts. Although that group culture is extremely small and insignificant in the grand scheme of life and American pop culture, we still used aspects of pop culture to create collisions of symbols to build our group’s cultural aesthetic of dad jokes.