Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Night Clubs - An Anthropological Viewpoint

While at a club recently, a psychologist friend pointed out that since I was bored, it wouldn't hurt to treat the experience as an anthropological exercise, prompting me to indulge in a little people watching, and take notes.

I observed certain phenomena in the club that are common to other clubs I've been to.

1. Loud music and cramped spaces - these force people to stand/lean closer together, especially when they talk, to make themselves heard, building some form of intimacy or bond between strangers that would normally take longer to build. This is because every person has a personal space, and normal conversations do not require people to intrude on each other's personal spaces, unless associations between people are already of an intimate nature, which usually takes a longer time to form. Hence, clubs bring people close together quicker.

However, one could also argue that the situation with proximity in a club is akin to that of strangers sharing a secret or travelling in a crowded train, i.e it involves a commonly accepted social norm of invading a personal space when the situation demands it. But while the norm may be socially acceptable, and may lead to nothing, social behaviour-wise, it opens up opportunities that would not normally exist in more discreet settings. Therefore, while invading someone's personal space in a club might be looked upon as a common occurrence, the opportunities that arise from this occurrence cannot be overlooked, like hooking up.

The loud music also tends to create a very tribal atmosphere. A group of people in one room, listening, singing, dancing and being affected in similar ways by the same music, tend to grow closer together. Imagine a tribal dance. Participants automatically feel a sense of camaraderie, of belonging.

2. Need for Affiliation - many people come here only because of a need for affiliation. It beats sitting alone at home. Some people come in groups, so they don't feel alone in a crowded room. Also, being in a group is a great way to get people to notice you. Being with someone else also instills jealousy in someone else who knows you.

3. Dim Lighting - this helps create more privacy, and encourages people to exhibit behaviour that they normally wouldn't display in brighter lighting. Also, there is a thrill in experimenting with or exhibiting relatively private behaviour in a crowded room with dim lighting, elements that would otherwise not have the same effect, individually.

4. Warm Temperature - The temperature is kept reasonably warm so that people are encouraged to dress down, wear what they wouldn't wear elsewhere, which leads to physical attraction, which is one of the objectives of going to a club to begin with.

5. Limited Seating - Related to cramped spaces, it maintains high physical proximity among the group by ensuring people are mostly standing close together, instead of sitting. Seating is usually only used on a rotational basis by individuals looking for rest.

6. Alcohol is usually available to give people a feeling of pleasure, suppress inhibitions, and encourage new behaviours.



1 comment:

melvin said...

Did I mention you analyze things a lot bud?
Depending on your viewpoint you can come up with any number of inferences... your article is an interesting read: thought provoking and may definitely ring true or contribute to the cause of copulation in some cases ... but alcohol as a substance is known to do that whether at home or at school! I'd peg the dim dark lit places with the taboo associated with alcohol in some cultures and the need for anomyity by the morally challenged when they succumb to the spirit.

I'll give you one thing though... most people hate being alone, infact they cannot cope with solitude or the mere thought of it and that itself may drive them to drink and the nearest pub in that order!

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