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The Secret World of Doing Nothing$
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Orvar Lofgren and Billy Ehn

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520262614

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520262614.001.0001

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In the Backyards of Modernity?

In the Backyards of Modernity?

(p.207) Chapter Four In the Backyards of Modernity?
The Secret World of Doing Nothing

Billy Ehn

Orvar Löfgren

University of California Press

This chapter focuses entirely on the history of modernity and the postmodern era, which are often described in terms of ever-increasing individualism and the constant fragmentation of social life. To a great extent this view of modern life is the result of focusing on just some arenas and processes—specifically on what is dramatic, eventful, and highly visible. “Non-events” are often relegated to the backyard of modernity. Here, on the one hand they are treated as being of minor importance, on the other as a kind of compensatory arena where people can, for a while, withdraw from the hectic pace and demands of social life—a bohemian flip side of Western modernity. One of the cultural dimensions of these activities is the skill that is learned, used, and transformed during the life of individuals as they interact with people, objects, mass media, and other public sources of inspiration. During modernity certain activities are made inconspicuous and unimportant. They only surface now and then as a problem. When these phenomena, at certain times, become the object of modern reflection they move temporarily from the backyard into the foreground—only to slip back again.

Keywords:   modernity, cultural dimensions, social life, skill, non-events, individualism

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