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Interesting metaphor for social groups

plymouth just posted a fascinating metaphor in one of my friends' friends-locked posts.
Social groups are hollow spheres - everyone's on the edge and noone is in the middle. That's the theory I came up with a few years back to explain the fact that all my friends seem to think they're on the fringes somehow. I guess you could say there are different shells to the spheres and some people are in the inner shells and some in the outer shells. Kinda like atoms. People are electrons. Nobody is at the nucleus.
I think this is a good way of spinning one's thinking about social groups in a way that makes it OK and normal to feel "on the outside" of one. (Although it doesn't explain why everyone thinks social groups have an inside that they are outside of and everyone else is inside of.)



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 16th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
(Although it doesn't explain why everyone thinks social groups have an inside that they are outside of and everyone else is inside of.)

some groups really do have an inside and an outside. there's a group of people where i get invited to the really big events, but i'm not one of the people who gets invited to the gathering that occurs every wednesday. i'm on the fringes of that and i don't think it's a misperception on my part. i can think of a few groups like that, actually. i *am* a member, since i do get invited to the big things, unlike the ones where i just read about the big gatherings when i read their LJs, but i'm not in the inner circle.

i'm sure there are groups where the theory you quote applies, i just don't think it's always the case.
Jul. 16th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
I just quoted this at lunch, to susansugarspun. It's one of my favorite quotations: "The condition of in-ness is only recognizable to someone who considers themselves out." -- Samuel R. Delany

I do think that some social groups have "central people," while others do not. I do think that some people are outsiders. I also think we all have a tendency (almost certainly culturally mediated) to see ourselves as on the outside looking in. This is, I suspect, closely related to how much easier it is to see oneself as oppressed than as oppressing.
Jul. 16th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC)

'Cause, see, I am in the middle of at least one social group -- the social group of people who know me.

That's not the same social group as other social groups -- it overlaps other social groups, but it's its own distinct entity.

And I really do, genuinely, feel like I'm at the center of the social group defined by me.
Jul. 17th, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC)
Well there was a continuation to the theory about how if you throw a party you get to experience being the nucleus but it wasn't very coherently described. I don't feel that I can rightly call "all my friends" a social group given that every time I throw a party two things happen - 1) people who have never seen each other meet and 2) people say "wow, I didn't know you were friends with [foo]! I thought that was a totally different social crowd. I primarily associate you with people from [bar]!" (where [bar] is probably wherever I met the speaker). If it was a coherent social group, as opposed to "people I know from various places" that wouldn't happen. I suppose that if I threw parties more often this would stop happening. But I lack the energy and social gravity to do this.
Jul. 16th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
Postmodernism is a circle whose margins are everywhere and whose center is nowhere, but at least since I found zine fandom 30 years ago, I have considered myself comfortably inside a number of circles not inferior to those one is supposed to wish to go around in.
Jul. 16th, 2007 11:23 pm (UTC)
From where I "am" in a group of social circles, I will always see the nuclei as being "over there somewhere." It's built into my seeing.

Someone else, of course, may look toward me and think I'm near or at the nucleus of some social group that I don't even think of. It's -- I dunno. Sort of an inside-out soap-bubble, where everyone else looks closer to each other no matter where you stand.
Jul. 17th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
where everyone else looks closer to each other no matter where you stand.

Yes, that's another interesting feature I've noticed.
Jul. 17th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
That is an interesting metaphor. I shall have to play with it for a bit, and feel where it suits me.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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