Framework Project: Our Place, Our Priorities – 15th March, 2013 [Week 5]

We –  Megan, David, Maddie, Keirah, Vernon – met at the Vintage shop along Monk’s Road, a wonderful space with racks of retro clothes, homely objects of all kinds and whiffs of nostalgia from the past. Jackie, the owner welcomed us to her “parlour”.

The essence of our discussion was memory, home, narrative, precious objects, positive and negative associations.

Each of us wandered the shop taking photographs of objects that interested us or meant something to us.

We met Maaike, a Community Organiser who explained her role in support of local people in the neighbourhood of Monk’s Road. She welcomed the prospect of working with us.

David requested that during the week we photograph 5 objects from our home which are important to us and also 5 places. Each photograph may need a short narrative to provide a context or explanation. Our association with each object/photograph may be positive or negative. Please keep a Journal to record any comments or the narrative.


These photographs will be the start of our Book.

We meet next week at the Angel Coffee House when we will discuss the photographs we have produced. Friday – 22nd March at 10 a.m.

Our Homework: To photograph – The five most important objects in my home  & five places of my  choice.

Enjoy Everyone…………including Sarah………..

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9 thoughts on “Framework Project: Our Place, Our Priorities – 15th March, 2013 [Week 5]

  1. Good evening Vernon. I thought this might interest you:

    There are two main kinds of social glue: ‘social identification’ and ‘identity fusion’. The latter is most simply described as a visceral sense of oneness with others in one’s group. This may be manifested in a variety of ways. For instance, when another group member is threatened it prompts the same defensive reactions as a personal attack. For the fused individual, the boundary between the personal and social self is porous – activation of one’s sense of personal self also serves to activate feelings about the social self. Fused individuals regard other members of their group as irreplaceable, and seek to reform and reintegrate them when they violate their group’s norms rather than kicking them out for good. When the group is under attack, or their status threatened, fusion increases commitment to maintain the group.

    Identity fusion is a widespread feature of kin groups and other small social units whose members share the trials and tribulations of life together. This sharing of experiences as well as the memories of those experiences, particularly of enduring and overcoming hardships, seems to be an important part of the mechanism generating fusion, most commonly within families but sometimes also within much larger groups.

    My mother remembers how tightly glued together our family was throughout the war. During the Blitz they spent a lot of time huddled together in bomb shelters. One night, however, my mother’s uncle and aunt and their young son emerged before the All Clear had been sounded, and went inside. The last bomb of the air raid fell on their house and they were killed instantly.

    An evacuee at the time, my mother only heard about the tragedy months later. She was on the top deck of a bus. She remembers it being a glorious day, the pretty summer dress she was wearing, that it was a treat to get the seat at the front. Her mother turned to her and said: “Your uncle and auntie’s house was bombed and they were inside it. Your cousin too.” That was all. It would have been improper to display emotion in public, so where better to deliver the news than on a crowded London bus? My mother was nine years old at the time.

    It is very unlikely my mother would have remembered the weather or what she was wearing or even where she was sitting that day on the bus, were it not for the emotional impact of my grandmother’s words. Integral to our sense of self is a set of memories of past experiences, including episodes that are felt to be especially salient in forming who we are. Such episodes will often relate to painful or disturbing experiences because these are generally better remembered than pleasant or gratifying ones.

    While these ‘bad’ experiences come to form part of our personal autobiographies that does not necessarily mean they are rehearsed as narratives. Often, there are social disincentives to talk about such experiences — because they conflict with idealized conceptions of family life, gender roles, Britishness, or whatever. But that doesn’t mean the memories are lost. They remain as part of our private sense of self. Indeed this sense of privacy, of experience that is internally generated rather than externally imposed, adds to the authenticity of these aspects of our self-conception.

    The impression that highly salient personal experiences are shared by others fuels the fusion of self and other. It is as if those who have been through the same thing are more ‘like us’ and the boundary between self and other becomes more porous. This would help to explain why people who endure terrible ordeals, such as natural disasters or wars, or who have experienced persecution or oppression, often feel a special bond with their fellow sufferers. My mother, for example, felt a special connection with children who turned up at school with black armbands. And conversely, it can feel as if people who haven’t actually experienced your pain themselves cannot truly understand it, and may seem inauthentic if they talk about the subject with an air of authority.

    In all these respects, identity fusion differs from what psychologists call ‘social identification’ (Swann et al. 2012). Social identity theorists have repeatedly shown that personal and group identities are non-overlapping. Social identity and group identity have a sort of hydraulic relationship to each other: the more one is activated, the less the other is. If your group identity prevails in your social life, the less prominently social identity willfeature. Attacks on the group activate social but not personal selves in people who identify with, but are not fused with, the group. Pro-group action is not motivated by the personal self. Members of the group are replaceable and norm violators can be more readily excluded from the group. When the status of the group is threatened, identification with the group is weakened.

    To simplify things, we’re about the glue, Sarah’s work with us is more about the social identity.

    • I like the distinction created in the article between social fusion & social identity. I sense that we are all contributing to the former through the Framework project even if, at times, the girls may not consciously understand this. Or am I being unfair to them?

      I wonder to what extent social fusion is being created & fostered in the SSC as a whole?

      • Another aspect of the discussion on cohesion……….Michael Smith replies to the original article and the replies…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….You folks should pay attention to social science

        Michael E. Smith,

        I wandered into this discussion (at Peter Turchin’s suggestion), and I find it very bizarre. I am not a psychologist and most of this material is new to me. As an archaeologist who considers himself a comparative historical social scientist, my reaction to the various posts is puzzlement at the lack of social science concepts. Sociologists and others have been wrestling with social cohesion for more than a century, and they have learned quite a bit about it. This material is not central to my areas of expertise (ancient empires, comparative urbanism, premodern inequality), but if no one else is going to stick up for social science, I guess I’m game.
        Whitehouse and the various commentators are discussing social cohesion as an attribute of individuals, and they seem to assume that the attributes of groups can be explained at the level of the individual. My perspective, coming from social science, is that cohesion is primarily an attribute of groups, and its explanation requires consideration of social structural processes, institutions, and mechanisms. Individual-level forces are not irrelevant, but explanations that do not take the larger forces into account will be very incomplete. This is known in the social sciences as the micro-macro problem. There are excellent discussions by philosopher of science Daniel Little, in his publications (Little 2010) and in his outstanding blog, “Understanding Society” ( See also writers such as (Elder-Vass 2010), or for a classic account, (Lazarsfeld and Menzel 1961).
        Social cohesion is closely related to the classic concept of “community.” Whereas sociologists used to think that community was established when people with similar values happened to live near one another, today the consensus is that community is established by interaction. This approach is described by Sam Bowles and Herb Gintis as follows:
        “By community we mean a group of people who interact directly, frequently and in multi-faceted ways. People who work together are usually communities in this sense, as are some neighbourhoods, groups of friends, professional and business networks, gangs, and sports leagues. The list suggests that connection, not affection, is the defining characteristic of a community. Whether one is born into a community or one entered by choice, there are normally significant costs to moving from one to another.” (Bowles and Gintis 2002:p.F420).
        A similar insight is expressed (with strong empirical support from years of research) by sociologist Robert Sampson, whose specialty is neighborhood organization in U.S. cities, particularly Chicago. One of his main concepts is “collective efficacy”, which is a combination of social cohesion and shared expectations for social control. This construct is strongly correlated with positive social outcomes in modern urban neighborhoods. “While community efficacy may depend on working trust and social interaction, it does not require that my neighbor or local police officer be my friend” (Sampson 2006:153). Sampson, and Bowles/Gintis, are making the point that cohesion/community/glue do not require similar identities or feelings of commonality or sameness by individuals. Rather, they are based on interactions among individuals.
        So where does the causality lie? For Sampson, explanation of things like community, cohesion, collective efficacy (and, by empirical extension, the processes that he is most interested in studying – crime, poverty, violence, urban decay, migration, etc.) requires attention to four levels (Sampson 2011:237-38), drawing on (Lazarsfeld and Menzel 1961):
        1. Individuals
        2. “Contextual/compositional characteristics are made up of the aggregation of individual characteristics, whether demographic (e.g., mean income) or an individual’s ego-level connections (e.g., the mean level of having a friend in the neighborhood or mean voting). (Lazarsfeld and Menzel called these “analytical” properties)”
        3. “Structural properties are based on data about the relations among group members or about the unit as a whole but may be derived from individual data.” ((e.g.,collective efficacy)).
        4. “Global properties are not based on properties of individual members and cannot be derived solely from them (Lazarsfeld and Menzel 1961).” ((e.g., spatial proximity to a factory, of network cohesion of community leaders)).
        Now a sociologist will probably stress the macro level and a psychologist the micro level. My point here is that we need both. Furthermore, the macro level is not just an aggregation of micro-level processes or effects. To quote Sampson again,
        “I accept the causality of individual action, to be sure, but this book has demonstrated that neighborhood processes and higher-order structures have their own logic and causality. And while I make no claim that neighborhood-level processes are necessarily the most important, like a cog, they mediate bottom-up and top-down mechanisms for many social phenomena.”
        The book in reference is (Sampson 2012), one of the best books ever written about cities and city life (in my opinion).
        Or to approach the macro-micro problem form a slightly different direction, consider mechanisms. Causal social mechanisms are now a major area of study in sociology and political science, where they form an epistemological alternative to both postmodern relativism and the rigidities of the logical positivist covering-law approaches to explanation. Charles Tilly (Tilly 2001a, b, 2008) divided causal mechanisms into three levels: cognitive, relational (relations among individuals and groups), and environmental (or structural). Psychologists deal primarily with mechanisms of the first type, whereas social scientists deal primarily with the second and third types of mechanisms. Tilly’s point was that all three types of mechanism are important for explaining society and social processes.
        If this material is new to you psychologists, a good place to start is Michael Hechter, a major theorist on cohesion (or what he calls “group solidarity”). His main work is: (Hechter 1987). Here is a summary of that book from a review by Charles Tilly (I didn’t write down the citation for this):
        “Solidarity is the extent to which the members of a group comply with its collective rules without compensation. Solidarity rises to the degree that (1) the group produced immanent, exclusive collective goods—those that directly satisfy members, that are available to all members, and from which nonmembers are excluded; (b) members depend on the group for a wide range of goods; and (c) formal collective controls over noncompliance are extensive.”
        We are getting into the territory of collective action theory here, which is a rather large body of literature relevant to the issues discussed in these posts. And then, for protests and uprisings, there are the many books written by Charles Tilly, the acknowledged leader in the comparative study of “contentious politics.” But I will stop here. I hope this material is useful for those who are interested in a fuller view of “social glue” and the kinds of social phenomena discussed in the prior posts. Micro-level processes are fine, but they are only part of the story. If you want social scientists to pay attention to your work, you should also deal with the macro level
        By the way, I had a similar reaction to Peter Turchin’s discussion of cohesion in some of his works (I forget the Arabic term he uses for this). I’m on an airplane now and can’t go back to check, but my recollection is that his discussion was slightly more nuanced and social-science oriented that the posts in this thread, but that it did not sufficiently take into account the social science literature.
        Bowles, Samuel and Herbert Gintis
        2002 Social Capital and Community Governance. The Economic Journal 112(483):F419-F436.
        Elder-Vass, Dave
        2010 The Causal Power of Social Structures: Emergence, Structure and Agency. Cambridge University Press, New York.
        Hechter, Michael
        1987 Principles of Group Solidarity. University of California Press, Berkeley.
        Lazarsfeld, Paul F. and Herbert Menzel
        1961 On the Relation Between Individual and Collective Properties. In Complex Organizations, edited by Amatai Etzioni, pp. 422-440. Hold, Rinehart and Winston, New York.
        Little, Daniel
        2010 New Contributions to the Philosophy of History. Springer, New York.
        Sampson, Robert J.
        2006 Collective Efficacy Theory: Lessons Learned and Directions for Future Inquiry. In Taking Stock: The Status of Criminological Theory, edited by Francis T. Cullen, John Paul Wright, and Kristie R. Blevins, pp. 149-167. Transaction, Rutgers, NJ.
        2011 Neighborhood Effects, Causal Mechanisms and the Social Structure of the City. In Analytical Sociology and Social Mechanisms, edited by Pierre Demeulenaere, pp. 227-249. Cambridge Universitiy Press, New York.
        2012 Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
        Tilly, Charles
        2001a Mechanisms in Political Processes. Annual Review of Political Science 4:21-41.
        2001b Relational Origins of Inequality. Anthropological Theory 1(3):355-372.
        2008 Explaining Social Processes. Paradigm Publishers, Boulder, CO.

  2. I think we might do this at home tomorrow. It is Persian New Year (1392!) and it is hard to mark it here in Lincoln. It might be a nice way to have a different kind of new year conversation amongst the three of us.

    • Welcome to the task Sarah. I’ve just completed the commentary on my choices and the reflection is proving to be quite revealing…………and I thought it was just about taking some snaps!

    • Homework almost complete…..but I’ve not written commentary or explanation yet. The photograph is great…..I’ll be putting it on the blog shortly…….

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