UP Fair: A Sociological Analyis

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Second week of February – sounds familiar? Nah, I’m not referring to Valentine’s Day. It’s the ‘Mardi Gras’ of UP, I’m talking about, the unbeatable UP Fair. This über event is the pinnacle of every activity there is in this university. It is the perfect embodiment of euphoria, the state where everyone completely sets all emotions held on to over the year free. It is the time when you scream all your frustrations, regrets, failures and disappointments, even jubilation and gratification. It is simply spectacular. However, it is not simply the event that arouses the interest of social scientists, it is mainly the crowd. Yes, the flock of brainiacs and those not-so are a wonder, the perfect species to observe and scrutinize. Perhaps thousands of studies had already been conducted in their honor but there is just something about this crowd that makes you think and raise questions like ‘How come they behave that way?’ or ‘What could cause them to go wilder?’ My three years in UP has made me witness this event over and over again, thus, in this piece of writing, I attempt to explain the sociological concepts and conditions behind crowd behavior inside the UP Fair.

Sociologically referred to as collective behavior1, this phenomenon consists of every feature that characterizes a crowd, one category of collective behavior. A crowd is defined as ‘a gathering of people who share a purpose or intent and influence one another’ (Wikibooks, 2005). Done seven times a year, the university fair is the site where people meet, interact and sometimes influence one another. It, however, is not considered a group since it is limited, devoid of social boundaries since people may come and go and lacks strong and standard norms. More specifically, it is a cross between a conventional crowd and an expressive crowd since it is ‘deliberately planned’ but it ‘does not develop any goal’. The University Student Council allots a couple months for its preparation and designates a large budget for it to push through. Months of toil consume the organizers for the purpose of making it a success. This preparation is reflected on the appearance of the venue, the number of organizations participating, the number of bands playing, the number of available activities, the number of people attending and also, the number of unnecessary events taking place. However, the goal of the UP Fair is not explicitly stated by the organizers. It is simply a rendezvous for the release of varying degrees of emotions, a place where people ‘let their hair down’, without forgetting ‘acceptable behavior’. Yes, most members of the crowd still follow most norms of the larger society like respect for oneself and others and ‘good manners’. Perhaps this is due to their intellectual abilities or educational attainments or simply instincts. However, they can not deny that the anonymity the crowd gives them makes them behave in ways they will not do when inside and recognized in the ‘normal world’.

The theoretical framework behind the behavior of the UP crowd is verified by the Emergent-Norm Theory of Turner and Killian (1987). This theory states that ‘collective behavior is characterized by differences in expression and emotions’. Members possessing divergent views express it in different ways, sometimes, not blatantly doing so. However, ‘in the interactions that follow the development of the crowd, new expectations and norms can emerge, allowing for behavior that normally would not take place.’ Similarly, the crowd gathering during UP Fair is composed of different people with different norms, behavior and self-expression. Consequently, in the process of interacting with each other during the event, a new kind of norm emerges and ironically, the crowd begins to act according to it. We could see people listening to and applauding not-so-famous bands, contrary to what they would do outside the crowd. The emergent norm is the respect for all kinds of bands. Also, even sociolects transpire during these interactions. Many words are integrated in the lexicon of people as the word ‘astig’ and the like.

In Smelser’s Value-Added Approach (1962), he enumerates certain conditions which may bring about collective behavior. First is structural conduciveness or the existence of conditions for collective behavior to be possible. In the case of UP Fair, though built from tradition, it is not only the promise of fun and great time that make them behave in such way, it is also existence of certain environments they are immersed into that make them want to escape. Second is structural strain or the conflicts or problems resulting from a gap between expectation and reality. A number of structural strains can be perceived behind the UP Fair, political, social, emotional, and others. Though mere teenagers or pre-adults, students also experience the turmoil besetting the human race. They are constantly bombarded with problems (personal, social, political or academic) and all types of pressures, therefore, also needing a way to relieve the strain. Though the other three conditions may not be aptly applied to the UP Fair crowd, it is, indeed, a form of collective behavior and like others; it can bring about changes in social structures and policies. It opens gates for diverse ethnic groups to interact, thus resulting to a better understanding of culture for students. It also turns them into more respectful, understanding, socially aware and socially active individuals. Furthermore, it is the place where great ideas pour forth, where great stories are made and great values are learned. It is not only the agora for self-expression; it is also the site where different organizations with certain convictions and beliefs rise, hoping to develop further into institutions with strong ideals. They say that ‘collective behavior may result in new directions of the culture and the establishment of new folkways, mores and values’. The case of the University of the Philippines Fair is a tried and tested formula for this.

Sources:Panopio, Isabel, Felicidad Cordero-MacDonald and Adelisa Raymund. 1995. Sociology:Focus on the Phlippines. Quezon City: Ken Incorporated.

_____________. Introduction to Sociology/Collective Behavior. May, 2005. July, 2006.