Monday, December 08, 2008

Going out ain't social

My ears were ringing for two days after seeing Primal Scream. You gotta love a little live ‘rock n’roll’ now and again, a dose of Dionysian pleasure. So here a conundrum. Although I spend a pile of time online, this has only increased my thirst for drafts of intense, real life events. It’s as if each has become an antidote to the other.

What is it to be ‘social’?

This isn’t a yearning for the social. Facebook is far more of a social experience than going to the theatre, cinema or concert. The scale, intensity and dynamic nature of the social interaction on Facebook is way beyond the idle chit-chat with relatively small numbers of people you get in these real places. In fact, people are loathed to speak to strangers at arts events. The only exceptions to this are popular sports events such as football where thousands will sing, chant, shout and chat with those around them.


High social

Facebook –network of friends – multiple chat  - anytime *****

Messenger – multiple chat – with cam ****

Email – one to one – daily ****

Conference – networking in coffee breaks and evening ****

Football match – social singing – lots of chat ****


Medium social

Down the pub – small social group – chat fuelled by alcohol ***

Dinner party – small social group fuelled by alcohol ***

At work – open office – chat ***


Low social

Gig –social but on an emotional level **

Theatre – brief chats in the foyer *

Dance – same as theatre *

Classical concert – people hardly socialise at all, certainly not with strangers. They don’t even speak to the people sitting next to them *

Cinema – not social at all – it relies on the suspension of disbelief and other viewers are often an annoyance – crunching popcorn, crackling sweet papers, slurping coke *

Art exhibition – nobody speaks to anyone - 0

What we yearn for in the real world is not primarily social, it’s transformative experiences. Real social experience is in inverse proportion to the degree of live performance. Just because there’s lots of people around doesn’t make it a social experience. Being in a live audience is often being part of an anonymous non-social mob.


Are we being driven to polarised extremes, with online social activity at one end and live non-social performance at the other? Does increased activity online lead to an increased need for real ‘reality’.


Stephen Downes said...

I've always considered 'socal' to be a pseudo-category.

What you are wanting, I would suggest, is 'experience' (ie., the results of a diverse and intense set of perceptions).

It is in experience, not sociality, that we find the genesis of learning.

Donald Clark said...

Agreed. When the word 'social' is used (and it's used a lot) it's often in defence of attending school, classroom learning and real-world phenomena. Social constructivists and fans of collaborative learning make it a fetish.

Donald Clark said...

Agreed. When the word 'social' is used (and it's used a lot) it's often in defence of attending school, classroom learning and real-world phenomena. Social constructivists and fans of collaborative learning make it a fetish.

Anonymous said...

Just recently, I have attended arts events where - a little to my surprise - the audience have interacted with each other. One was the Rothko retrospective at the Tate, where there were a lot of animated discussions with strangers going on. Another was a jazz festival in Islay - partly, I think, because the audience was small and all had made a real effort to get there.

I find social interaction online much more superficial - unless I know the people I am communicating with in real life as well.

As Downes suggests, attending an art event is about the experience. But even going to the movies in enhanced by the company of others - discussing a film afterwards is, for me, an intrinsic part of the experience.

Donald Clark said...

I suspect the events you quote are the exception rather than the rule (they sounded excellent). I attend dozens of art exhibitions a year and am on the Board of England's largest Arts' Festival, so attend many live events across the whole spectrum of the arts. On the whole, the audiences are reserved and reluctant to interact with each other. In event after event you see people sit next to each other and not utter a word. I'm reasonably gregarious and always speak to the person next to me. This is usually greeted with suspicion and people are reluctant ot really talk.

I agree with you and Stephen, that attending these events is primarily about the experience. I suppose that was my point - you do it because of the personal cognitive experience, not the social experience.

My complaint is that many tout the 'socisl' dimension as the one that is important. I can't tell you how many times these events have been used as a counterpoint to the non-social online world.

Anonymous said...

It is an amazing learning experience that this social interaction through internet brings about.

True, the vast range of experiences, skills and knowledge cannot be compared to what we gain through real-life socializing.The only thing that is different and very importance is the beauty of being with another human being and the most wonderful aspect is-the touch.

Thanks for the list and the thoughts it provokes.

Paul said...

I agree generally with what you're saying, though I think this can have an "in the eye of the beholder" dynamic.

I know people that absolutely thrive on person-to-person interaction in-person. Then there are people like myself, who perform best in discussions (at least I think I do) over internet formats like blogs, forums, and chat.

I think your points about supposedly "social" events not really being so is well-taken. It's certainly not as if one big post-movie discussion session commences after the lights come back on. In fact, outside of university auditoriums and civic centers, are there any considerably sized public social events?

The stigma is still on internet interaction though, whether it is deserved or not. Society I think still sees sitting in front of an LCD monitor typing posts or chats furiously in relative silence for hours as the actions of a hermit, a social outcast. This is rather far from the truth, but that's the perception. My parents to this day (even though I've been using computers for two decades) still ask if I get out and do things away from the computer.