Archive for the ‘sociology’ Category

Rituals of Violence

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

As a prelude to a radio programme on the rituals of violence, Laurie Taylor writes about his memories of following my own football team, York City. The last line is a great image…

I’ve supported York City ever since I took up my lecturing job at the university in the late sixties. There have been a few magical moments over the years since then – a 3-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford in the 1995-6 League Cup – but most weeks the fans have to dine on pretty thin gruel.

Like other supporters of lesser teams, though, they keep themselves going by telling jokes about their own team and its relative lack of success. They’ll talk about the time the new and much criticized striker finally earned a corner and the entire team did a lap of honour. And they’re bound to come up with the story of these two York fans fighting each other on the terrace. A policeman jumps over the barrier to separate them and says ‘Why are you two fighting. You’re on the same side.’ And then the fellow who started it all points to his protagonist and says ‘It’s not my fault. It’s his. He tried to shove a season ticket in my pocket.’

At some matches the only thing that enlivened the proceedings was the prospect of a little hooliganism. Even though visiting teams rarely brought more than a couple of hundred fans with them, these were routinely segregated from York supporters by a line of constables.

All was usually relatively quiet for the first half-hour of the match. Nothing much more than the routine chanting of insults between the two groups of fan. But then, after a particularly nasty foul, or a dramatic goal-mouth incident, matters would escalate and fans from each side would attempt to breach the police line, waving their fists in the air and shoving and pushing.

From close-up, it might have been disturbing but viewed from the other end of the pitch, it had a deliciously ritual quality. Half-a-dozen fans who were braver than the rest would shove against the police line, while their rivals would shove back the other way. And so it went on with neither side striking a blow until one fan – there seemed an element of arbitrariness about this – was picked on by the police and then, to cheers and chants all round, escorted along the touchline and out of the ground.

In the old days what added even more to the ritual quality of the hooliganism was that at half-time away supporters were often allowed through the police line so they could join home supporters in the queue at the tea stall.

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Photosynth

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

Wait til you get to around five minutes in…

Photosynth website

Suicide Notes

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

This email came today to promote a programme on BBC Radio4 which is usually well worth listening to, as it covers research in the field of sociology, one of the areas most directly connected to design. It answered some questions I asked myself a while ago while pondering a project related to suicide that I never got off the ground due to various factors (issues of taste being one of them)

You can listen to the programme here for seven days after broadcast, but here’s Laurie Taylor’s intro:

Whenever the subject of suicide or attempted suicide comes up in conversation I can be relied upon to describe a piece of research on suicide notes that was published some years ago (even though I’ve tried, I can’t find the exact reference any more).

What the researcher had done was collect a large selection of suicide notes written by two classes of people: those who had successfully ended their own life and those who had failed for one reason or another to kill themselves (attempted suicides).

He then submitted these two sets of notes to a computer analysis in the hope that this might throw up some interesting differences in style or subject matter.

As I remember he found clear evidence that the notes written by the ‘attempted suicides’, by people who had not taken quite enough pills, or not sealed the door sufficiently well to prevent noxious gases or fumes escaping, were heavily philosophical in tone. The writers spoke at length of life no longer being worth living, of the meaningless of existence, of the impossibility of optimism.

These were in shark contrast to the suicide notes written by those who had succeeded in killing themselves. These notes tended to be much shorter and much more practical than those provided by attempted suicides. One for example simply said “You’ll find the car keys on top of the sideboard and the will in the top desk drawer.”

There are thousands of other research papers on the subject of suicide. Indeed, it could be argued that sociology first asserted itself as a distinctive subject back in 1897 when Emile Durkheim first tried to formulate a structural and cultural account of its incidence which did not rely upon any psychological understanding of individual desires and motives.