Collaborative Commitments, Narrative Gratification, and Fun in Unequal Micro-Cultures
Collaborative Commitments, Narrative Gratification, and Fun in Unequal Micro-cultures
Gary Alan Fine, Northwestern University
Ugo Corte, Uppsala University
As a consequence of their size and fragility, small groups depend on cohesion, including the assumption of fundamental equality among members, despite the status hierarchies that inevitable arise. How do group members survive and thrive, given inequalities? Central to the continuation of groups are occasions of hedonic pleasure that recognize attachment. These times are popularly labeled “fun.” While groupness can be seen the cause of fun, we emphasize the effects of fun on group life, recognizing that on occasion group leaders strategically generate fun. Shared pleasure creates the conditions for communal identification, overriding the inequalities of interaction and status. Such moments serve as commitment devices building affiliation, modeling positive relations, and moderating interpersonal tension and differential power. Further, they encourage retrospective narration, providing an appealing past, an assumed future, and boundaries between the group and those outside that erase divisions. The rhetoric of fun produces interactional smoothness in the face of potential interactional ruptures. Building on the authors’ field observations and on other ethnographies of group activity, we argue that the experience and recall of fun bolsters group formation, maintenance, and reproduction.