Hi everyone! I’m Ali, your resident Learn2Nerd Sociologist.
What is sociology you ask? From the American Sociological Association (ASA, also a formatting style I spent way too much time memorizing in college): “Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups organizations, and societies and how people interact within these contexts.” Basically – we study groups of people, how they interact with each other and other groups of people. We like groups a lot. “Since all human behavior is social, the subject matter of sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob; from organized crime to religious traditions; from the divisions of race, gender and social class to the shared beliefs of the common culture,” from AAAASSSSAAAA (no disrespect). Sociologists are basically superheroes that study all the things, all the people, in all the places.
And speaking of places, one of my favorite ideas of sociology comes from urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg who put a great emphasis on places in a community where people can come together and discuss, let loose, hang out, and find a common ground with their fellow human peoples © Philip DeFranco. Oldenburg calls these spaces where creativity thrives the “third place.”
If we are going to talk about the third place, we should start at the beginning. In Oldenburg’s opinion, the first place is your home and those who live with you. This can change in different stages of a person’s life, i.e., it can be mom and dad, husband or wife, children…pets. The second place is your work place, where you spend most of your time. If you are a student, this would most likely be school, the library, or the back of your eyelids. However, it’s the third place that Oldenburg emphasizes as extremely important in communities. Third places are often free or inexpensive and food or drinks are usually present. These places are accessible by most, welcoming and comfortable, and often have a “regular” crowd. The Cheers bar is a strong example of a third place.
I remember in my urban sociology class, we discussed how the United States doesn’t have many great third places because we are still a young country. Strong third places in other countries are often riddled with history, and have been around for generations – here in the US, we don’t have the immense history such as that of an 800 year old pub in Dublin (The Brazen Head). But we’ve got Starbucks! With urban spread, it isn’t uncommon for people to drive hours to find a good meeting place where they feel “even” or leveled in social status with their fellow third place attendees. According to the Wikipedia article, a good third place has at least a few of the following characteristics:
- Free or inexpensive
- Easy access
- Welcoming and comfortable
- New and old friends are found
- Leveling of social status/lower, upper, middle class does not matter
- Conversation is the most popular activity
- Low profile/wholesome
- Playful mood
- Acts as a home away from home
So with conventions happening every weekend, and more and more local stores selling their share of nerdy things, I am here to make an argument for…COMIC BOOK STORES AS THIRD PLACES!!
This weekend, your gracious host, Katy, and I went on a comic book store adventure. We had heard about this new store that opened up in Burbank called The Perky Nerd. To be honest, the name had me hooked. By the time she said they sold coffee and comics, I was dying for a fix. Unfortunately she discovered it in the middle of the week and we had to have some restraint. In telling my coworkers about our weekend, many have said my nickname should be Perky Nerd. I can’t argue (I have a coffee dedication…problem).
So on Sunday, Katy and I drove on down to see Tiffany, THE Perky Nerd, and found a wonderful hidden, NEW! gem. While it is somewhat far from home, it hits the mark all over the third place checklist. Tiffany greeted us warmly, and quickly introduced us to her kiddo who was all about not having nap time. Katy told her about finding her on Instagram, the podcast (she followed the Instagram and me!), and our really huge interest in coffee and comics, coming together to create beautiful nerdy symphonies. The Perky Nerd stands out among our local (and amazing!) comic book store Quest, in that it has coffee tables, super groovy chairs, a couch, and general Central Perk-type vibes. Still relatively new to comics myself, I always get nervous about going to new, nerdy places, but there was no social structure where one person was better than another at this shop! People walked in and out, we chatted with total strangers, sipped our Stumptown, and checked out some amazing art. Hashtag No Flash Photography. There were two people playing the Game of Thrones board game, two others drinking tea and talking in some industry-speak, but we were all united in this great space. We hung out for about an hour and a half, just grinning and gleeful that this haven existed. Tiffany even introduced us to her two friends Kelly and Kelly like we were old friends making new. Obviously a space is not a third place without its inhabitants, and Tiffany is what makes The Perky Nerd such a safe, comfortable third place.
After some delicious roasted garlic chicken pizza (we need a Learn2Nerd about food), we walked to Meltdown comics on Sunset. Some may know that Meltdown is, or maybe was as I’m still unclear, where Nerdist records their podcasts! They have multiple rooms set up for other podcasts I hadn’t heard of. Almost warehouse in style, they have a ton of comics, and happened to have back issues of Butterfly that I had been interested in picking up since Free Comic Book Day! We didn’t really talk to people, but the lovely girl at the counter explained the setup. I found it interesting that because they are on a very busy street in LA, they organize their comics by title instead of publishing house. Batman and Deadpool had never been so close. Meltdown had tables set up too, and it appeared one group was playing a tabletop game where another was deep in discussion. I noticed there was a father and son browsing the collectibles they had for sale, which made me excited for future nerds, but also family bonding! We all know, sometimes the hardest people to relate to are the ones we come from.
Lastly, Free Comic Book Day was a few weekends ago and the best part was seeing all different kinds of people excited about reading! And free stuff! This group excitement brings me to another one of my favorite things in sociology: collective effervescence. Besides being extremely fun to say, collective effervescence is a feeling that happens to a group of people when they have a shared emotional experience together. This experience can be sad, happy, euphoric, but always emotional and in this case it was excited joy. Any time groups of people can get together and unite with a common experience, it makes my sociology heart pitter patter! This CE is often seen at conventions, where screaming, crying, laughing in big halls flourishes. I cannot wait to see the collective effervescence at Comic Con 2016!
But really, collective effervescence could be a really great alcoholic/non alcoholic beverage! Someone get on that.
I hope you enjoyed your mini sociology lesson. Now go find your third place in this world!