F. Tenbruck’s concept of lateral sociation (querläufige Vergesellschaftung) refers to the sociological possibility and probability that manifold sociation processes have, in all likelihood throughout history, been a feature of existing cultures and societies and their internal structures. The research project analyses the current situation by looking at a limited but central section taken from the multifaceted spectrum of lateral sociation processes. The contemporary lifestyle formations and stylisation practices investigated are characterised by the routine incorporation of media as forms of expression and hence by a marked link between local and media-driven centres of activity, or sites, and under certain circumstances even those of the global media. Our research is guided by the initial observation or basic assumption (following on from G. Simmel) that mediatisation of personal style formations and stylisation practices leads to clear changes in social dynamics and the social significance of lifestyle as a form of sociation based on delimitation.
As such changes do not already stem from the internal logic of the media in question, but rather arise from the interdependence of media facilities and social action, the research project is deliberately designed to be reconstructive (based on analysing individual cases) and systematically typifying (comparing cases). Within a framework of analysing ethnographic and media case studies, A. Strauss’s site concept (1) is applied to determine how the social gestalt of style communities changes in the process of binding together local and media centres of activity (the socio-morphological dimension of analysis). Focus is placed on (2) the identification of different socio-moral forms and strategies of media culture which articulate and maintain distinct attitudes to life, including those which run counter to pragmatic everyday obligations to act and institutional expectations of behaviour (the political dimension of analysis). Finally, (3) the genesis of new technologies and visual idioms of cultivating an image are to be investigated, as well as the formulation of separate corroboration orders in the middle of or adjacent to the institutional structures of everyday life (the interaction and recognition theory dimension of analysis).
The outline and orientation of the project detailed above means that it will contribute not merely towards (a) the sociology of lifestyles and (b) the analysis of social processes of mediatisation, but also (c) an understanding of social structural developments: the assumption of a functional orientation of global media systems towards social integration (the global village hypothesis) is contrasted with the issue (one that relates both to the sociology of culture and that of knowledge) of the genesis of relatively innovatory processes and constellations of reciprocal marginalisation of the self and others.