Scenes: Social Context in an Age of Contingency

  • Silver D
  • Clark T
  • Navarro Yanez C
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This article builds on an important but underdeveloped social science concept – the “scene” as a cluster of urban amenities – to contribute to social science theory and subspecialties such as urban and rural, class, race and gender studies. Scenes grow more important in less industrial, more expressively-oriented and contingent societies where traditional constraints fall and self-motivated action around consumption, lei- sure and amenities is a more important feature of social cohesiveness and interaction. Scenes contextualize the individual through amenities and consumption-based expres- sions of shared sensibilities as to what is right, beautiful and genuine. This framework adds to concepts such as neighborhood and workplace by specifying 15 dimensions of the urban scenescape. Like neighborhood and workplace, scenes reduce anomie, but because of their focus on consumption and the use of specific amenities, they are more consistent with today’s ethos of contingency, moving beyond traditional ideas of the fundamental power of social, family and occupational background. We introduce a new amenities-focused database to measure and analyze scenes and their dimensions for each of 40,000 U.S. zip codes. We illustrate the framework by applying it to one distinct type of scene, bohemia, and analyze its position in the broader social system.

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  • D. Silver

  • T. N. Clark

  • C. J. Navarro Yanez

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