Of Pubs and Platforms – Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute – article

Of Pubs and Platforms

Daniel Miller | Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute


This article argues for a more explicit concern with sociality in anthropology, illustrated through a study of one of the oldest English platforms for sociality: the English pub. Using an approach derived from the study of social media, the pub is analysed in terms of the balance between structural (mainly commercial) forces and agency (mainly the desire for particular kinds of sociality). Following an introduction to the English pub, the article considers how pubs exert control over which population they serve. The next section, shows how groups of people colonize pubs, regardless of the pub’s intentions. This is followed by a discussion of the various responses by pubs to this colonization. The final section, ‘Scalable sociality’, demonstrates how these processes combine to produce a phenomenon called scalable sociality, which is also a definition of social media: a series of platforms that can be sited along various scales and parameters of sociality. This is important because a similar tension between, on the one hand, commercial or state forces and, on the other hand, the development of new forms of sociality is increasingly common within many topics studied by anthropologists.


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