Welcome back, readers. The school year -- and let's face it, what for most of us feels like the real year -- has begun.
As promised, this blog is taking off in a new direction, or perhaps it would be better to say with a new focus. I'll still be blogging on social behavior, etiquette dilemmas, and navigating the modern world. But more than before, I'll be doing that with a conscious eye toward the overlap of everyday behavior, the social sciences, and the performing arts.
Theater and the social sciences, besides being things I have degrees in, both attempt to analyze and represent human behavior, from the mundane to the extreme. Theater focuses on the individual, the moment, the irreproducible. The social sciences focus on the group, the trends, the tendencies. Both have their place in understanding -- and better performing -- social behavior.
I'll continue to do periodic Monday questions -- maybe every other week or so, on topics where it's especially good to hear from lots of different people. Here are some other features that will be appearing regularly:
Waiting for Goffman. More than anyone else, 20th-century sociologist Erving Goffman explored the notion of everyday life as theater. His work has been a huge influence on me and the way I answer advice questions, and I'll be discussing his ideas, and applying them to etiquette conundrums, more frequently. (Here is an example, from several years ago.)
Setting the stage. How does our environment affect our behavior? What would happen, for example, if
Researchers decorated a section of a Hardee's restaurant in Champaign, Ill., with indirect lighting, soft music, white tablecloths, even candles on the tables. The room was soundproofed, isolated from the loud music and bright lights of the adjoining standard interior.
Would people linger over their meals and eat less, as though they were fine-dining rather than fast-fooding it? Science has the answer.
Dressing the part. Our clothing is one of the first ways we communicate to other people (and sometimes to ourselves) who we are. What is the language of the clothes we wear?
The greatest show on earth. Musings on the theatrical nature of current events. Including the election and all its runups -- I won't be talking about policies, but how the candidates carry themselves. Politics has often been called "show business for ugly people." The latter part of that statement is increasingly untrue -- in fact, I'm just going to go out there and call the Obama-Romney race the most attractive presidential race in history -- but the first part is as true as ever.
Local players. News and musings on the local theater scene, including "Blood Rose Rising" a new show opening in Central Square, which I'm working on as a creative consultant. "Blood Rose" is set in Cambridge in 2012, in a very haunted house inherited by a very haunted man. The Gothic tradition -- castles, ghosts, perversions, long-buried secrets -- is an over-the-top concoction that some people can't get enough of. Because underneath the fabulously creepy aesthetic are some deep emotional truths.
Mirror up to nature. Everyday life is the thing. Psychological studies and television shows try to portray that life, but how good a job do they do? And what effects do the inevitable distortions have, as our ideas about social interaction are inevitably affected by what we see and read?
So that's it, folks. I'm still looking for a good tagline that brings this all together -- if anyone has an idea, please to share it! And join me for a chat tomorrow.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at email@example.com.