After reading Paco Underhill’s great book on how people behave in department stores, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, I started thinking about parties.
As most other people, I have been to a great number of parties and social gatherings during my life; some were fantastic, a painful few were abysmally boring, with the majority somewhere in between. At the great parties, I just had fun – but at the more boring ones, with nothing to occupy my attention, I would start thinking about why the party was boring. What went wrong? Why weren’t people having fun? And gradually, I started looking around at the fun parties, as well. What made these evenings a success? What did it take to turn an unpromising setup into a raving mass of happy people? What makes the difference?
The curiosity about this seemed to stay with me. Slowly, over several years, I began to see some patterns, some similarities across the different types of parties. And thus, the idea of studying Party Dynamics was born.
The question I want to explore is this: What key factors determine whether a party becomes a success or a catastrophe? Specifically, if we were to set up videocameras in discoteques and bars all over the world, what would we find? What patterns of human behaviour would emerge? What correlations would exist between those behaviours and the way the party is organised – considering everything from the identity, gender and age of the people to the music, the room, the lightning level, the dresscode, the alcohol served, the behaviour of others, the invitations, the number of partygoers, the familiarity of the other guests, the location, the objectives of the people, and the nature of the party itself?
And, more importantly, could we use this knowledge to create better parties?
I have no clue whether this is something that has already been studied. If it has, it has likely taken place within the fields of sociology, ethnology or anthropology. I would be more than happy to hear from you if you know of any such studies. What I suspect, however, is that most of this knowledge is not written down anywhere, but resides in the heads of bar owners, wedding planners, event agencies, discoteque managers, professional hostesses, and other creatures of the night. That is what I want to change.
To do so, I will use this space to start posting my own theories and ideas on the subject. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any input or ideas of your own.