THE NEW DESCRIPTION OF CUSTOMS
When studying our own culture we are in danger of falling into platitudes, clichés and simplifications and it is by no means easy to obtain a new, fresh look. Fortunately, the possibility of sharpening and refining our perception has been proved by a number of studies published in the 1990s. They confirm that ethnologists use the depth of focus quite properly, recording and analyzing phenomena 'within their reach', even when they point their camera at themselves, as the amateur film-maker does. Poland, for the last 15 years, has experienced rapid transformation of the forms of interpersonal relationships and of interactions. Many social norms and the basic canons of ethics have been changing for much longer. General political and social situation of the 1980s allowed neither for extensive external contacts nor free flow of information. After the restrictions had been slackened and later disappeared, the Polish society became involved into changes happening at bewildering speed that for its considerable part were not only difficult to accept but also hardly possible to perceive. Besides, there was an enormous import of new cultural patterns, meanings and messages not known within Polish culture before, some of them even incompatible with it.The authoress has distinguished so far three groups of issues stemming from the interwoven fabric of new and old elements. The first and largest group could be referred to as 'the theatre of everyday behaviour'. It includes people's everyday behaviour at home, at work and between these two areas of human activity. Relationships among household groups. Relationships and interactions among workmates. Forms and ways of self- presentation, roles people play and masks they wear. Especially worth studying are the patterns and scenarios of behaviour when people are somewhere 'between', 'on their way'. The second category of problems includes new forms of 'conversation' ranging from complete anonymity to extreme exhibitionism and from refusal of communication to imposing oneself. These forms of communication include talk-shows and interactive TV programs, together with TV shows of the 'Big Brother' and reality show type. Problems of new forms of reality belong to the third group.
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