The Anti-Social Social

I should note the following article meanders, I think about the concept of the anti-social social quite often but articulating the concept proves difficult. My friend describes the following as a flock known and unknown sounds.

Staring at the vulgar message of graffiti drawn very poorly on the seat on front of me, I sit down where no one else wanted. Being anti-social, I felt content in knowing that I would sit here alone, without making eye contact or conversation with anyone else. Yet I am not alone in the desire to be alone…especially on public transport. A thought entered my head: Do we also do this with our architecture? I don’t mean to ask if we draw graffiti that is menacing in an attempt to terrorize (or do I?), but more to ask if we ever intentionally de-socialize our built spaces and creations? Are the buildings that surround us in fact our anti-social arms and legs, as extensions of our own being?

A friend recently suggested a shift in thinking between the notions of social and anti-social. Hristo Harlov, co-founder of Bulgarian-based project TheThirdTeacher put forward the question as to whether the Joker may be considered a social figure while Batman is the anti-social outsider. Today the Joker’s political and public actions are relatively common-place and therefore by some definition may be indicative towards social behavior. This is a fascinating thought especially given the Catch-22, by which laws must exist for them to be broken, BOTH being equal and opposite social formulas.


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Philosopher Giorgio Agamben explores the concepts of the ‘State of Exception’ whereby governing powers also hold the power to step outside the law to act in the best interest of society. By contrast, I would argue that most of society does not act for society but upon individual motivation. In which case individuality has us acting against society and by collectively doing so, have our historically “anti-social acts” become social?

It is difficult to consider if we are being anti-socially social in our actions, unless we define the term social.  As with most definitions, these ideas are not single-faceted and have developed and diverged into various angles. Why not make our own? What is one more? It “adds” to the “fullness” of the definition, right? Assisting in society? Being social? Or is it our own ends and our own argument that is at stake, a new definition without which these thoughts are wonderful but unfounded and un-provable. Un-testable. There could be no law by which our argument must abide nor under which it is categorized. And so, lets not make our own after all, lets take the definition of social to act as a collective and in unison.


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And now lets apply this to architecture. By definition social is to act within the majority: Globally, more than half of all building development occurs without first acquiring a building permit or review, and without approval of designs or plans. The building laws that exist for our society are broken by more than half of its citizens. To be social is to act in unison. But wait! If we, as a group, BREAK the codes of building created for society then we act collectively, as individual cases of criminality (but STILL in unity and in overwhelming force against our laws and regulations), are we not acting socially by definition? Are we not, then, anti-socially social?

And so, it seems possible then that my friend was right, that we are, indeed, swapping roles with the Joker, or at least we are becoming modern versions, while some other outsiders play Batman who follow the rules and intend to enforce them upon the masses that seem to want nothing to do with them. Does this cause anarchy? Will it? Or is this just another question of definition that needs to be reconsidered? Are we becoming anti-social societies? Whichever definition you choose, it’s a question that begs the insight of our “moral” compass. Which do we observe and why or why not? Are they in unison? Am I confused (Yes I am)? Or are we as split and confused as our anti-social social actions? Go and anti-socialise about it, I would love to hear your opinion in the comment section below.


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