Editor's Choice

Social flow

BPS Digest has a post about recent psychological research into social flow, an extension of the concept of individual flow states (aka, being in "the zone") to group activities.

Ever had that wonderful, timeless feeling that arises when you're absorbed in a challenging task, one that stretches your abilities but doesn't exceed them? Pioneering psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called this state 'flow'. Countless studies have shown that flow is highly rewarding and usually provokes feelings of joy afterwards. Little researched until now, however, is the idea of 'social flow', which can arise when a group of people are absorbed together in a challenging task. In a new study, Charles Walker finds that social flow is associated with more joy than solitary flow - 'that doing it together is better than doing it alone'.

The studies the post goes on to cite are of the "approximate social behavior in the lab" variety that I tend to be skeptical of, but nevertheless I found the general idea interesting because it ties in with something that I ahve been thinking about lately in terms of online sociality. One of the things that is absent from the reciprocal affirmation behavior online is this sort of social flow. I haven't conducted a study or anything, but even the most real-time of social interactions online tend to reinforce my feeling of separation -- online chat (which I haven't done in a long time) always seemed to me a bit like social chess, trying to plot the next witty thing to say rather than being lost in the flow of conversation. Maybe this is a personal idiosyncrasy.

The idea of social flow evokes the possibility of a kind of group identity that can coexist with the strictly individual identity that gets constructed in online forums and through consumerism-for-display rituals. The standard argument -- where Hebdige's Subculture: The Meaning of Style-- is that a kind of self-consciously deviant consumerism are efforts to maintain subcultural groups, but as Hebdige points out, these efforts generally fail, are co-opted, are mediated by the stereotypes the groups want to defy, and so on. It seems the subcultural identity is probably maintained instead by these social flow states, and the identity markers are just means to achieving the mutual trust necessary to allow the flow to emerge with seeming spontaneity.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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