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Social Management

Social management refers to the artifact groups of people create to regulate behavior. Social management artifacts can be created for very large groups such as nations or states or communities. We call social management artifacts at this scale, laws, customs, constitutions, doctrines, policies, etc… Social management artifacts can exist for smaller groups such as clubs or teams or schools or even bands. We would call artifacts at this scale charters, norms, rules, codes, etc… Social management artifacts exist to support desirable in-group behaviors, and desirable behaviors between groups. Social management artifacts also exist for identifying undesirable behavior and the corollary consequences that follow.  Social management artifacts can provide a guide for how groups can interact with other groups at all levels of society. These can be written, as in the rules that govern a football game between two teams. They can also be unwritten as in the ways fans of each team may act during a game either in their home stadium or visiting another stadium. Any type of “norm” or “expectation” or “policy” that involves group behavior is part of social management. Social management relies on cultural artifacts that give guidance, or instruction, or feedback (positive or negative) about social interaction. Some social management artifacts are explicit and can be found in writing.


Artifacts like traffic laws, which in our state are part of what is called the Revised Code of Washington or RCW. The RCW is social management and contains social management artifacts covering everything from aeronautics to waterways. For example, chapter 46.61 is Rules of the Road you can find RCW 46.61.790 Intoxicated Bicyclists, which will tell you in part that an “office may offer to transport a bicycle rider who appears to be under the influence of alcohol…unless the rider is taken into protective custody under RCW 70.96A.120” which is about public intoxication.

Here are some very common social management artifacts. myths, rules, traditions, expectations, laws, norms, codes, nations, states, democracy, communism, rituals, decrees, rubrics, directions, suggestions, best practices, ways, principles, policies, doctrines, charters, norms, suggestions, best practices, manifesto, decree, fatwa, edict, etc…Some social management artifacts are passed from one generation to the next in the form of tradition, spoken word, heritage, culture, story, legend, myth, sayings, idioms, ways, etc…


When interacting with social management artifacts consider how inclusion and exclusion for in-group interactions and for out-of-group interactions are impacted. Ask yourself, how social management artifacts can shape communities by either encouraging or discouraging a sense of belonging for individuals within that community.


Please also consider how culture and context interact through social management artifacts. Recognize that through social management artifacts privilege and oppression have been able to exist in our society. It is important to remember that we have had laws (social management artifacts) in our nation to ensure that some communities would thrive and some would struggle. Consider the laws that governed slavery, the Indian Removal Act, Jim Crow, voting rights. Reflect for a moment on the practice of “redlining” that defined where families could buy homes. Redlining is an explicit social management artifact that dictates who can live in what community. An implicit social management artifact may be seen when driving through the southern part of coastal North Carolina. There you can find gated communities with the word Plantation in the title. Like Brick Landing Golf Club and Plantation, or Brunswick Plantation or Rivers Edge Golf Club and Plantation. These may not be exclusively white enclaves by decree, however, the word choice of “plantation” may act as a social management artifact in how it resonates with potential home-buyers.  


I do not want to malign social management as something that is only oppressive. Though it certainly has been misused to do hurt and control it is also the aspect of SEL that is most important in supporting and maintaining a free society. Social management that allows for checks and balances of power is essential in protecting citizens from authoritarian regimes. It is necessary that people have access to recognize the social management artifacts surrounding them and have the skills to know how to create or amend new or existing artifacts to provide others the same freedoms and securities they themselves enjoy and benefit from.


Social Manage- ment artifacts

can you recognize

in this space?

Can you pause and identify some or all the social management artifacts that outline human interaction in the spaces that you frequently occupy?  You can start by thinking of a space you know such as a food court at a mall. Ask yourself, "Do I know how to act in the food court?" Notice that you are NOT asking yourself about any particular need you may have. This question does not ask you what you might do if you are hungry, or tired, or on a date. Those questions will factor in, but are more related to the context of self-management. If you don't know how to act in a space you may want ask yourself, "How can I learn how to act in this space?" That question requires you to use your social awareness by determining the social expectations of a given space by observing what is going on around you, how are others acting. If you do know how to act at the food court you may want to ask yourself, "How do I know how to act?" This would help you determine what the social management artifact is. Are there written rules for behavior on the wall or is interaction defined more by larger management artifacts such as "manners" or "politeness" or "civic responsibility". You may want to further your thinking by asking yourself, "Who created this artifact? Who benefits from this artifact? Does effect all people equally? 

What Social


artifacts could be used to support a group/s I am/am not a part of?

This is another area where context plays a significant role. Different social spaces offer different consequences for expressive behavior. Consequence, in the pure sense, is neither good nor bad. The consequence of yelling and flexing after dunking on an opponent can be huge boost for hyping your team, hyping the crowd, and off loading some adrenaline. The consequence of these same expressions upon finishing a book during silent reading would be different.

I see most students and colleagues seeking answers about being expressive largely by watching peers and observing how they express themselves. When we teach SEL lessons, the best method I have found for engagement, retention, and application of a skill comes from a Social Learning Theory model. That is if students see themselves providing instruction they are more likely to engage, retain, and apply the desired skills. Providing students the opportunity to discover new methods of expression and explore diverse social spaces is crucial to the development of social management skills. Establishing common expressive SEL language provides students the opportunity to make connections and access spaces and faces that may appear different from observation. 

For our kids to be successful and prepared for career and college we need for them to have robust and rigorous experiences working with both collectivist or individualistic approaches to activities. There are great strengths to both approaches. Collectivist activities provide students the opportunity to learn and practice skills that advance the well-being of the group. These would be things like humility, compromise, listening skills, community respect, and in general working to get along with others. Similarly, individualistic activities provide students the opportunity to learn and practice skills that advance the well-being of the individual. These would be things like self-confidence, independence, self-reliance, assertiveness, and self-respect. These are just partial lists of skills and strengths that can be nurtured when having equitable access to both collectivist and individualistic approaches. I have never met a parent or care-giver or teacher who wanted less of these strengths for their students. The key is to make sure that we adults are providing the learning opportunities. Having students practice thinking about an activity, prior to beginning, and determining what approach may be the most productive, or what role may be the most appropriate for them is another aspect of social management. This practice can not only increase the functionality and efficiency for a group or individual but in many cases it can alleviate the dreaded "leader/follower" confusion and can minimize resentment, the killer of relationships.

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