Conclusion: The Cultural Significance of Imaginary Social Worlds
We do not live only in the objective world of external objects and activities. On the contrary, much of our experience is inner experience. Each day we pass through multiple realities--we phase in and out, back and forth, between the actual world and imaginary realms. We awake in the morning after spending six or seven hours entangled in the phantasmagorical world of dreams. During our early morning routines, we regularly drift off into the stream of consciousness. As we dress, our attention wanders, we experience moments from the past, imaginatively engage in scenes of the day ahead, and silently converse to ourselves about these nonpresent worlds. At breakfast we may sleepily talk with our families but then, picking up the morning newspaper, we are off again, caught up in the political machinations of Washington and the doings of the sports worlds and comic strip characters. Driving to work, we are only partly aware of the familiar route. Much of the time we are "away," lost in anticipations of the hours or years ahead or in fantasies about how things might otherwise be . . . and so on throughout the day, hour after hour, day after day.
This complex dimension of experience, so little attended to in social science, is of considerable interest for culture studies. In this ethnographic study, I have explored the social aspect of these inner experiences. I have shown that in passing much of our lives in imaginary worlds, we are engaging not in private but in social experiences. Cultural studies of social organization have neglected a fundamental aspect of our subjective experience-- our pervasive involvement in imaginary social relationships. In