Microculture refers to the specialised subgroups, marked with their own languages, ethos and rule expectations, that permeate differentiated industrial societies.[1]

A microculture depends on the smallest units of organization – dyads, groups, or local communities – as opposed to the broader subcultures of race or class, and the wider national/global culture, compared to which they tend also to be more short-lived, as well as voluntarily chosen.[2] The study of kinesics – the nonverbal behavior of the small gathering – can be used to illuminate the dynamics of a given microculture.[3]


Georg Simmel drew a distinction between the universalist claims of ethics, and the more particularist concept of honour, which he considered linked to the specific social subworld – business or profession – in which it was rooted.[4] His study of secrecy also looked at the micro-secret as an aspect of meaning-control within the individual microculture.[5]


A microculture works in the same way as a microclimate, which refers to a local set of atmospheric conditions that are different from the climate of surrounding areas.[6] In this analogy, culture is likened to climate where the latter contains many microclimates within it while the former contains multiple, smaller, and more specific microcultures.[7] A microculture – whether formed by a racetrack, a university, a holiday camp or a pub – can be seen as having its own social micro-climate, with values and norms of behaviour of its own, to an extent differing from those of the general culture.[8] Such micro-climates are situational, specific to their own circumstances.[9] For instance, although a pub is considered part of the English culture, it also contains its own microculture wherein one can find a structured and temporary relaxation of social norms.[10] The same is true in the case of a racetrack where spectators from all social classes converge amid a relaxation of the constraints of respectability.[11] Kate Fox considered that "the social micro-climate of the racecourse is characterized by a unique combination of disinhibition and exceptional good manners".[12]


Arguably the wider range of choices offered by the new mass media are increasingly allowing individuals to cohere within their own microcultures, rather than exposing themselves to the cultural mainstream.[13]

The fragmentation of postmodern consumer microstructures, with their volitional and ephemeral nature, also presents a pattern of mainstream erosion in the face of an increasing number of competing microcultures.[14]

Online microcultures[edit]

The early years of the internet saw connectivity limited to a small number of computer-savvy Netizens with their own emerging netiquette or microculture.[15] By the late 1990s, a number of microcultures, such as Slashdot, had developed online; with the Noughties, Slashdot ethos would contribute to the new wiki culture of Wikipedia.[16]

Wikipedia would then spawn its own internal microcultures, not only between different language communities, such as English, German and Japanese, but within the same language as well: subjects, work projects, ideologies all forming nodes around which microcultures could form.[17] Such a proliferation of microcultures is typical of the internet, GNU forming a particularly fertile sources of such local communities.[18]

Field research[edit]

Social psychology field researchers are alerted to the fact that different field settings – such as hospitals, airport or cafeterias – may have their own particular micro-climates, influencing people's actions and motivation in micro-specific ways, so that findings from any given setting should not be generalised without external checking.[19]

Literary examples[edit]

In the 1998 fantasy novel Night Watch, the hero's mentor, urging him not to abandon his supernatural colleagues, points out that every profession has its own microculture outside of which a certain isolation is inevitable.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David McCurdy, 'Using Anthropology' Archived 24 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ J. H. Ballantine/K. A Roberts, Our Social World (2011) p. 93 and p. 72
  3. ^ John and Malcolm Collier, Visual Anthropology 91999) p. 93
  4. ^ Erving Goffman, Relations in Public (1971) p. 126n
  5. ^ Ulf Hannerz, Cultural Complexity (1992) p. 108
  6. ^ Crowley, Dermot (2018). Smart Teams: How to Work Better Together. Milton, Queensland: John Wiley & Sons. p. 154. ISBN 9780730350057.
  7. ^ Babin, Barry J.; Harris, Eric (2017). CB. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. p. 202. ISBN 9781305577244.
  8. ^ Kate Fox, Watching the English (2004) p. 89
  9. ^ Paul Stephens/Andrew Leach, Think Sociology (1998) p. 207
  10. ^ Groes, Sebastian (2011). The Making of London: London in Contemporary Literature. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 57. ISBN 9780230234789.
  11. ^ Huggins, Mike (2003). Horseracing and the British, 1919-39. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 134. ISBN 0719065283.
  12. ^ Kate Fox, The Racing Tribe (London 2002) p. 87
  13. ^ Nasar Meer, Sociology for Dummies (2011) p. 98
  14. ^ R. W. Balk/J. F Sherry, Consumer Culture Theory (2007) p. 80-9
  15. ^ Peter Buckley/Duncan Clark, The Rough Guide to the Internet (2009) p. 305-6
  16. ^ Andrew Lih, The Wikipedia Revolution (2010) p. 69 and p. 73
  17. ^ Lih, p. 145-8 and p. 230
  18. ^ Thomas Hansson, Handbook of Research on Digital Information Technologies (2008) p. 125
  19. ^ E. R. Smith/D. M. Mackie, Social Psychology (2007) p. 42
  20. ^ Sergei Lukyanenko, The Night Watch (2007) np

Further reading[edit]

  • Donald W. Klopf & James C. McCroskey. (2007). Intercultural communication encounters. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

External links[edit]