The Society Portal

World Summit on the Information Society, Geneva

World Summit on the Information Society, Geneva


A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Societies are characterized by patterns of relationships (social relations) between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent of members. In the social sciences, a larger society often exhibits stratification or dominance patterns in subgroups.

Societies construct patterns of behavior by deeming certain actions or speech as acceptable or unacceptable. These patterns of behavior within a given society are known as societal norms. Societies, and their norms, undergo gradual and perpetual changes.

Insofar as it is collaborative, a society can enable its members to benefit in ways that would otherwise be difficult on an individual basis; both individual and social (common) benefits can thus be distinguished, or in many cases found to overlap. A society can also consist of like-minded people governed by their own norms and values within a dominant, larger society. This is sometimes referred to as a subculture, a term used extensively within criminology.

More broadly, and especially within structuralist thought, a society may be illustrated as an economic, social, industrial or cultural infrastructure, made up of, yet distinct from, a varied collection of individuals. In this regard society can mean the objective relationships people have with the material world and with other people, rather than "other people" beyond the individual and their familiar social environment.

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Kavadi dancers in Hamm, Germany in 2007
The Tamil people are an ethnic group from South Asia with a recorded history going back almost two millennia. The oldest Tamil communities are those of southern India and north-eastern Sri Lanka. Unlike many ethnic groups, the Tamils have at no time been governed by a single political entity; Tamil̲akam, the traditional name for the Tamil lands, has always been under the rule of more than one kingdom or state. Despite this, the Tamil cultural identity has always been strong. Historically, this identity has been primarily linguistic, with Tamils being those whose first language was Tamil. In recent times, however, the definition has been broadened to also include emigrants of Tamil descent who maintain Tamil traditions, even when they no longer speak the language. Tamils are ethnically, linguistically and culturally related to the other Dravidian peoples of South Asia. There are an estimated 74 million Tamils around the world.

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Joan BaezCredit: Photo: Rowland Scherman, USIA

American folk singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, performing a duet at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. Both were relatively new recording artists at the time, with Baez being at the forefront of American roots revival and Dylan having just released his second album. Baez was especially influential in introducing audiences to Dylan's music by recording several of his early songs and inviting him onstage during her own concerts.

Did you know...

McLeave's Lock on the Lagan Canal

  • ... that the Lagan Canal (pictured) was once one of the most successful canals in Ireland but closed in the 1950s after succumbing to competition from road and rail transport?
  • ... that in response to the Norwegian butter crisis, Danish people have donated thousands of packs to butter-starved Norwegians?
  • ... that Natchez Indians attacked French colonists in Louisiana in 1729, killing over 240 people?

Anniversaries this month

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American Association for the Advancement of Science

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Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890–1998) was an American journalist, writer, feminist, and environmentalist known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development. Moving to Miami as a young woman to work for The Miami Herald, Douglas became a freelance writer, producing over a hundred short stories that were published in popular magazines. Her most influential work was the book The Everglades: River of Grass, which redefined the popular conception of the Everglades as a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp; its impact has been compared to that of the influential 1962 book Silent Spring. Her books, stories, and journalism career brought her influence in Miami, which she used to advance her causes. Douglas lived until age 108, working until nearly the end of her life for Everglades restoration. Upon her death, an obituary in The Independent in London stated, "In the history of the American environmental movement, there have been few more remarkable figures than Marjory Stoneman Douglas."

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A very early wax cylinder recording (October 5, 1888) of composer Arthur Sullivan. It was created in London by George Gouraud as an audio letter to be sent back to Edison.

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