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Culture/Entertainment conundrum
Okay, so there's something that's been bothering me about the board layout for a while. I haven't done anything about it because I wasn't sure what to do - but, now that I've got some ideas, I'd like to share them. 

What's the current setup? 

As of right now, we have a 'History and Culture' board, with a 'Language and Literature' sub-forum. This contains both topics of a linguistic nature (e.g. the LangFocus YouTube channel and Jarkko's excellent 'LINGUISTICS!!' thread), as well as topics relating to books and poems (e.g. Harry Potter and Game of Thrones). 

The one exception to this is that comics go under Entertainment. I could attempt to justify this by arguing that "Comics aren't really 'literature': they have some literary qualities, but the artwork is at least as important, making them a distinct art form" - but, actually, the real reason is simply that threads about comics would look very out of place in "History and Culture". A thread about 'Marvel vs. DC' wouldn't appeal to the typical 'History and Culture' audience, but would appeal to the typical 'Entertainment' audience. 

So, what's wrong with this? 

Unfortunately, the problem I just described doesn't stop at comics. Books tend to have a lot of crossover with TV and movies, due to the prevalence of film/TV adaptations of books, and (to a lesser extent) novelisations of films. The 'Harry Potter' and 'Game of Thrones' threads are good examples of this: they're in 'Language and Literature' because they started out as book series, but since then, they've spawned massive entertainment powerhouses spanning multiple different media. It's not like these are popular books with an obscure screen adaptation, or popular TV/film series with an obscure novelisation: both the original books and the screen adaptations are very popular in their own right. As such, putting these in 'History and Culture' just feels wrong to me: in my opinion, they'd be more at home in Entertainment. 

On the other hand, we have the same sort of problem in reverse, with music. Sure, threads about pop music (and things like rock/metal) belong squarely in the 'Entertainment' forum - but, what about classical music, or traditional/folk music? In my opinion, things like this would look out of place in an 'Entertainment' section - especially when there's a 'History and Culture' section sitting there ready to take them. 

It's as though our layout has been set up with an implicit division between "low/popular culture" and "high/traditional culture" in mind. At some point over the past nine years, we seem to have decided that reading is a 'higher' form of entertainment which should be considered 'culture', while TV, music and movies are 'lower' forms which merely constitute 'entertainment'. That's silly: culture doesn't work like that in the real world. 

So, how do we solve it?

My first thought was that "if we're going to do this division between 'low culture' and 'high culture', then we should do it properly." This would involve moving the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones stuff into 'Entertainment', and some of the classical and traditional music (if indeed there is any) into 'History and Culture'. However, the more I thought about this solution, the less I liked it. We'd have to give up on a single 'Music' sub-forum, which would create problems for popular threads like 'What are you listening to?', and would just be a clunky and user-unfriendly setup. But, more importantly: if we have separate boards for 'low culture' and a 'high culture', where do we draw the line between the two? No matter where we drew this line, it would be arbitrary and subjective, and would be the source of endless debate and confusion. I just don't think this approach would be workable or helpful. 

So, now, I'm thinking that we should abandon all pretense of a division between 'low culture' and 'high culture', and just put everything in 'Entertainment' (perhaps re-named to 'Entertainment and Culture' or 'Entertainment and Popular Culture', or even just 'Popular Culture'). Here's how this would work:
  1. Re-name "Language and Literature" to "Linguists' Lounge". I originally put language and literature together, because of the obvious relation between the two: literature is one of the standard applications of language. However, in practice, the 'literary' topics and the 'linguistic' topics seem to have very little overlap: they exist side by side, but they usually don't mix with one another. So, breaking up "Language and Literature" shouldn't be too much of a hassle.

  2. Add a "Reading" sub-forum to "Entertainment". This section would contain the 'literary' half of 'Language and Literature', together with the threads about comics (which are already in 'Entertainment'). 

    I originally considered calling it 'Books', but I decided this would be too broad. There are plenty of books which would look out of place in an 'Entertainment' board, because they're designed for purposes other than entertainment; for example, school textbooks, religious scriptures, and atlases (I mean, I read atlases for recreation sometimes, but I think that says more about me than it says about the atlases :lol: ). So, my next idea was 'Literary Fiction', but then I decided this would be too narrow: there is some non-fiction that's usually read for entertainment (e.g. magazines and biographies). So, I decided that having a 'Reading' sub-forum of 'Entertainment' would be the best way to make its intent clear: it's any reading done as a form of entertainment

  3. Re-name "History and Culture" to "History and Society". If we move the literary stuff out of here, then there won't be much 'culture' any more: the art stuff will be practically all that's left.

    Essentially, "History and Society" would be dedicated to all of the social sciences, including (but not limited to) history, archaeology, architecture, demography, economics, and of course linguistics (which would still have its own sub-forum). The art stuff would stay there too, since it's connected to history, art and architecture. Myths and legends would probably go here too: they're not usually 'read for entertainment', after all :P .

    We'd still be losing most of the 'book' threads - but, to compensate, we'd be bringing in some threads like "Definition of 'millennials'?" and "Moving an entire city", which don't really have their own board right now, but would fit in here. (A check through Current Events and Politics would probably turn up a few more examples of threads which would be better off in "History and Society")

  4. (Optional) Make "Music" its own forum. 'Entertainment' is very large as it is, and bringing in the literary threads (about 15-20 of them, with close to 200 replies between them) would make it even larger. If we were to split it up, then I think the best way to do it would be to take Music out, and make it its own forum. Compared to the others, music is quite self-contained (sure, there's a bit of crossover, in the form of film/TV soundtracks and musical films, but that's still nothing compared to the strength of the links between books, movies and TV (and even theatre). 

    The only thing is, the "Music" forum would probably be one of our least active forums. It has only 35 threads and 672 replies - and most of those are concentrated in one or two threads (like "What song are you listening to?" and "Rate the song above you"). I don't see this changing, because I'm not interested or knowledgeable enough on music to make this section properly active. In my opinion, we'd be better off keeping Music as a sub-forum of Entertainment for now, and making it its own forum later on if we decide that Entertainment is too large to work properly.

So, there are my thoughts. There are still some details to iron out (for example, do we re-name Entertainment, and do we keep Music in there or move it out?), but the basic plan is all in place.

What do you think?
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Messages In This Thread
Culture/Entertainment conundrum - by Kyng - 01-05-2019, 01:43 PM
RE: Culture/Entertainment conundrum - by Kyng - 01-05-2019, 11:42 PM
RE: Culture/Entertainment conundrum - by Kyng - 01-06-2019, 01:12 AM
RE: Culture/Entertainment conundrum - by Kyng - 01-06-2019, 01:27 PM
RE: Culture/Entertainment conundrum - by Kyng - 01-08-2019, 12:51 AM
RE: Culture/Entertainment conundrum - by Kyng - 01-09-2019, 06:54 PM
RE: Culture/Entertainment conundrum - by Kyng - 01-12-2019, 02:07 AM

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