## Monday, March 19, 2007

### Soapsuds, Space, and Sociability

It's often difficult to understand why other people do the things they do. For example, late at night in the town where I live, short-wheelbase cars with aluminium alloy wheel-arches, and loud, flatulent exhaust notes, which burble in a skin-crawling manner when the car is at rest, are driven up and down, round and round, up and down, round and round, etc, etc. That's difficult to explain, unless you postulate that they're driven by young males with the brains of blue-bottles. Similarly, there are people who spend their lives, or a significant proportion thereof, thinking about money, and doing things with money. How do they stay awake during the daylight hours?

Finally, however, I have found the ultimate inexplicable interest. Dr Regina Kenen wrote a paper for the prestigious 'Journal of Contemporary Ethnography', entitled 'Soapsuds, Space, and Sociability: A Participant Observation of the Laundromat'. The punctuation-free abstract reads:

Sociability among strangers is investigated in urban laundromats located in middle-class areas and escussed in terms of the pattern of relationships between observed properties of physical settings and observed reactions of individuals in these settings Laundromat behavior identified includes a form of display of the general properties of a subculture Specific rituals act as a form of implicit grammar governing interaction

What exactly is escussion? Is 'discussion' considered to be a politically-incorrect term amongst the community of sociologists? Does it imply that one is dissing a cussion? Should we, instead, 'es-cuss' the issues?

You can download the article for $25, but that only gives you a license to access the article for 1 day! And this is another thing which baffles me: why can you download a song for about a pound, but an academic paper costs as much as a DVD to download? What are the economics here? No sane individual would ever pay$25 to download a single academic paper, so why do the publishers put the price so high? Is it designed purely to force all academic institutions into taking out institutional subscriptions?