For the past year, I’ve been thinking that the ability to form groups is one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be human. I’m not sure quite how, but I think the formation and protection of groups are some of the building blocks of society.
The word group is being used to represent the social phenomenon in which one person decides to interact with other people within a specific shared context.
From the beginning of my life, I can describe many different groups I’ve been a part of, groups I’ve found myself in, groups I’ve tried to break into, and groups that I’ve been excluded from. Put twenty children in a kindergarten classroom and you’ll observe groups of friends emerge. How and why they emerge has fascinated me for as long as I can remember.
Groups come and go. In the professional domain, the primary group you participate in is supposedly out of some business necessity. In consulting, the main group you participate in is your team. The structure of the team is decided on by managers. Teams are formed in order to complete projects. The group serves a very utilitarian goal. If the group that you are in fails to add value in whatever way value is defined for the organization you are in, then the group serves no purpose. If this happens, many times this leads to the disbanding of a group.
Groups that form in the social domain are a little different. Groups of friends are a little harder to define. What is the difference between a group of people and the individual relationships between two people within the group? How does information disperse throughout a group? Does the complexity of a group increase as more members are added to it? Within a group, what are the sub-group dynamics? How and why do groups form? How do they disband?
In order to make the subject matter more accessible and intelligible to others, it’s necessary to define a preliminary vocabulary that’s going to be used to describe some social phenomena.
- Groups: The social phenomenon in which one person decides to interact with other people within a specific shared context.
- Group Structure: The members of the group and the specific shared context of the group.
- Group Dynamics: The interactions and operations between the members of the group over time. How the specific shared context of the group changes over time.
- Group Theory: The study of groups.
Many people think that language, specifically linguistic expression, is the founding characteristic of society. I believe that the groups that people form with each other is a more intrinsic part of society than language. I also think that people can form groups with one another in the absence of linguistic expression. I also believe its that this ability to form groups with people is the founding characteristic of society.