Monday, 21 May 2007


Sometimes I read the tag line of my blog and feel like I am fundamentally cheating. A false advert.

Where is the sociology?

Well, it's a difficulty. I am quite convinced that its going to be of no interest. A couple of words about a band, a video, a picture, an ancedote, all that might be acceptable, after all it is the standard format for these sorts of things as far as I can tell, but I'm not a journalist. I'm not even a Joe-Bloggs-lay-person-on-the-street-customer. I'm a sociologist. And people know what is expected of journalists and critics, how they present their views, reviews and even previews. There is a standard formula. Its a bog-standard phenomenon that you know what to expect from. But how much can I expect for my audience to understand or care about a sociological perspective on the whole shabang? Concepts, theories, a sociological perspective seems to be quite difficult to explain.

But in what capacity should that be applied to my passion for music?

It's fair enough that I am trying to cobble together some stuff about why the concept of 'wealth' is interesting to sociologists. In fact, I described it today as "completely self-evident". Wealth being fundamentally linked to power, an exclusionary aspect that gives extreme access to some, tied to age, gender, geographic location, reproduced within the same class, etc. In that sense it is easy. People don't think about that sort of thing often and when they have it pointed out to them they kind of just go "Oh, yea... I see what you mean." But every man and his dog has a very candid opinion of music. So, who would I be to start commenting on it?

But surely there is something more here than for just critics and journalists to have a say that is regarded with slightly more reverence?

I mean, they are casting their opinion on a sound, a genre, a performance, etc. But from what point did they have the influence? The media have not always existed in the capacity they do now. They are not the Gods that dictate what happens. They can just give it more of a social airing. Significantly improve a musicians chances of 'making it big' or not. For every 10 mainstream acts of any given genre there are hoards below the surface crying out to get their music listened to. I guess, though, this lesson can be very vividly now be seen through the likes of MySpace.

And MySpace has influenced us in other ways too. Hasn't it?

Since when were people so easily led to start defining themselves in terms of a few boxes they could fill in listing their personality traits and favourite music, amongst other things. Bringing people with common interests together is one thing, but to possibly narrow the spectrum in the way which people express their identity can lead people to become more or less interested in something that really may be their niche.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic.

The human brain does like to catergorise. The complexity of the world in which we live in is so incredibly vast that what we deal with is reduced to the things that directly effect us personally. The sheer amount of social relationships, kinships, likes, preferences, technology, science, culture, differences and similarities is just mind boggling. Stand in a busy high street and think of all the people walking past with their individual histories, businesses with processes for profit-making, buses providing transport, air and molecules being exchanged, individual conscious experiences always on going. It is all so vast.

The tradegy?

Well, the tradegy of this is that we can never ever in all our years of toiling and trying, ever know all aspects of culture, the world. Even if we figured it all out, a way to map and track everything, to know all of it, would we really benefit from this? Would it not just disenchant us that there was no more knowlegde to be uncovered? And would we just be existing in some sort of horrible Orwellian vision? Yet, even Orwell gave us hope that we still exist in our own consciousness as individual human social beings, and that all our personal thoughts could never be known in their entirity unless we hand them over.


Anonymous said...

Yes & this fundamentally applies to the natural sciences also- even though "scientists" are loath to acknowledge this. For example in empirical & mathematical cosmology the "big bang thoery" of the origin of the universe may be no more than an intellectual convenience for a species incapable of conceptualising the eternal.

Steph Mulrine said...

Yes, and what is worse is when natural science techniques are applied to the study of the social world in order to establish 'laws'. Like was already said the social world is so volitile, vast and never ceasing, how can one ever really feel comfortable with a 'law' to apply to the behaviour which goes on?