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Ho-hum, we've got a medium for tedium

Washington: Sociologists leading a backlash against excitement have launched a learned periodical called the Journal of Mundane Behaviour.

Devoted to extolling the everyday and playing down the extreme, the journal - available only on the Internet - includes articles that examine banal and tedious conduct around the world.

Related Links
Journal of Mundane Behaviour
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The Boring Institute

The 106-page first issue features a "manifesto for the mundane" by Wayne Brekhus, professor of sociology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on the dreary.

He says: "The extraordinary draws disproportionate theoretical attention from researchers, [while] the history of mediocrity, the sociology of the boring and the anthropology of the familiar are neglected fields."

Other articles draw attention to interesting aspects of dullness.

Mr Andy Crabtree, a sociologist from Britain's Lancaster University, deconstructs the process of searching for a library book "in an attempt to discern the implications of spatial organisation on social action". An article on shaving explores how "masculinity as a gender construct and a politicised tool of identity formation are presented through facial hair".

Ms Devorah Kalekin-Fishman of the University of Haifa in Israel, an expert on small talk, theorises that workaday conversation shapes culture "because of the many ways in which people compile representations and the many ways in which they interpret each type of representation by building on relational networks".

Perhaps the least interesting contribution focuses on how Japanese people interact in lifts.

Mr Scott Schaffer of the State University of California, the founding editor of the journal, argues in the inaugural issue that the bizarre nature of the world as depicted in the media has made the outlandish seem normal. Now people yearn for tedium to break up the monotony of excitement, he says.

"People want to escape this mundane extremeness and to get back to understanding the everyday aspects of our lives."

Mr Schaffer says he was inspired by the "poignant ordinariness" of a book called The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans As Told By Themselves, published in a very limited edition in 1906. The Journal of Mundane Behaviour is at
The Telegraph, London


I post this because I too believe "People want to escape this mundane extremeness and to get back to understanding the everyday aspects of our lives." There's lots to say, but condensing it down to 106 pages was an attainment that excited us very much. Too much excitement actually.


Regards from an ordinary boring OZ dweller

-- Pieter (, March 13, 2000


how Japanese people interact in lifts.

That reminds me of the time that several members of our college speech class decided to lampoon some "elevator behavior." We got on an elevator on campus on the second floor and stood facing the back. Several profs got on. We waited for them to say something. Finally, one of them said, "Steve (our instructor) must be lecturing about elevator behavior, again."

No fun!!!!

-- (, March 13, 2000.

This begs the question of what to do when someone farts in an erravator.

-- (banzai@tofu.bonsai), March 13, 2000.

We have virtually stopped watching the news because of the extremeness. Not every day is there a Chernobyl.

Years ago there was a station out of Altoona, PA with an anchor named John Schwartz who sat squarely, didn't smile, and reported all the boro council's decisions in all the little communities around, the planning commissions meetings, and the present state of the 15th St. bridge project. It was mundane and great.

News that resembles MTV or Entertainment Tonight is the pits.

-- Pam (, March 13, 2000.

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