This is not really a “frequently asked questions” page, more of a “frequently searched-for topics” page.
I’ve been getting quite a lot of dings from search engines on the term “social context”, much more than I had originally guessed, and the searches are always amended with some other term. I have searches that begin with social context and end with things like “short story,” “sociology,” “setting,” and “labeling.” Similarly, I have searches that look for things like “Illinois shooting social context.”
To that end I would like to explore what the meaning of “social context” really is. Then perhaps those people who breeze through here on their trip through the web will stop for a moment to consider what I, and hopefully others, write about the subject.
What does Social Context mean?
Social Context is a myriad of systemic processes working on the people of a culture and emanating from the people into the culture as well. I will try to define the basic ideas behind Social Context here.
In the case of society, Social Context is how a thing is viewed by the members of that culture or audience.
For example: The experience is different depending on what setting we are in when the experience is had. When we watch a film at a theater versus watching the same one at home. Or when we are at the scene of an accident versus watching the same accident on the news. The experience is different depending on where we are and how the audience receives the experience. Furthermore, the type of crowd you find yourself in changes an experience; e.g. watching a news story with co-workers versus watching the same news story with friends.
In the case of a thing, Social Context is how the culture or audience influenced its creation.
For example: Working with steel occurred at different times and in different locations over the course of human history. The different ways in which each culture worked with the metal was influenced by the context of their society. Eastern styles placed more emphasis on ceremony whereas Western styles placed more emphasis on production. This could also be the result of what is referred to as Social Environment.
Social Environment is the influence of a group of people on their environment and/or the environment’s influence on them. A child born and raised in the city will have a much different view of the world than a child born and raised in the country.
That was two of the most commonly held definitions of Social Context and one of the many things that lead out of social context and back into it. A short and by no means exhaustive list of others include: groupthink, anomie, ethnocentrism, nationalism, and enculturation.
It is within Social Context that concepts like Durkheim’s Social Facts are able to be perceived. Social Facts are those things within a society that are external from, but acting upon, the actors (people) within a society. Many of these facts are only perceivable within the context of social interactions. [Added 2/19/08]
I would like to invite anyone to modify or add to the definitions I have provided here. As I learn more about the phenomenon I will add and modify as well. Hopefully we can all learn from each other.