This free course, The social nature of being human, looked at various instances of intersections between our individual human existence and ‘the social’ sphere surrounding it. What it demonstrates is that the social nature of human existence works on many levels and operates in more obvious as well as more mysterious ways. In line with this, you looked at a large scale and peaceful gathering of a crowd in a North Indian pilgrimage and thought about how the experience of being in a crowd can engender and enhance the creation of social identity or even social responsibility.
You then considered the case of pro-Palestinian protesters disrupting a BBC Prom concert and examined how a group used the social scene to disrupt its smooth flow and to communicate thereby a confrontative political message – as well as how the BBC then incorporated (and in a way de-politicised) this disruption into its reportage of the event.
Lastly, as a demonstration of how the social can feature in seemingly private thoughts and intimate events, you looked at the case of charitable giving and homelessness. What you discovered here was how the private and the intimate, in apparent distance from crowds and politicised groups, too exist in the social sphere and in ever-present dialogue with social meanings.
The social is therefore present when we are in smaller or bigger groups, when there are actual and tangible others around us, exerting a very concrete influence. Yet it is also part of us, our individuality, our thoughts, our innermost desires, when we are sitting on our own unaccompanied. For this individuality of ours, these thoughts and desires gain their particular individual shape against the background of many other thoughts and desires that we encountered, directly or indirectly, throughout our lives.
This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course. The topics and the general approach of this short course will give you a taster of this Open University course.