Habitus

Habitus is a socialology theory created by Pierre Bourdieu an academic writer.

(Ltd, 2017) Habitus is one of Bourdieu’s most influential yet ambiguous concepts. It refers to the physical embodiment of cultural capital, to the deeply ingrained habits, skills, and dispositions that we possess due to our life experiences. Bourdieu often used sports metaphors when talking about the habitus, often referring to it as a “feel for the game.” Just like a skilled baseball player “just knows” when to swing at a 95-miles-per-hour fastball without consciously thinking about it, each of us has an embodied type of “feel” for the social situations or “games” we regularly find ourselves in. In the right situations, our habitus allows us to successfully navigate social environments. For example, if you grew up in a rough, crime ridden neighborhood in Baltimore, you would likely have the type of street smarts needed to successfully survive or steer clear of violent confrontations, “hustle” for jobs and money in a neighborhood with extremely low employment, and avoid police surveillance or harassment. However, if you were one of the lucky few in your neighborhood to make it to college, you would probably find that this same set of skills and dispositions was not useful—and maybe even detrimental—to your success in your new social scenario.

Habitus also extends to our “taste” for cultural objects such as art, food, and clothing. In one of his major works,Distinction, Bourdieu links French citizens’ tastes in art to their social class positions, forcefully arguing that aesthetic sensibilities are shaped by the culturally ingrained habitus. Upper-class individuals, for example, have a taste for fine art because they have been exposed to and trained to appreciate it since a very early age, while working-class individuals have generally not had access to “high art” and thus haven’t cultivated the habitus appropriate to the fine art “game.” The thing about the habitus, Bourdieu often noted, was that it was so ingrained that people often mistook the feel for the game as natural instead of culturally developed. This often leads to justifying social inequality, because it is (mistakenly) believed that some people are naturally disposed to the finer things in life while others are not.(Ltd, 2017)

This theory explains that all instinctive knowledge and personal tastes are all part of an ‘ingrained’ upbringing. Knowledge you’ve gained through your parents or social surroundings. This could also lead to your tastes being the same as what is popular with the majority because this will likely have the same effect.

This information could be beneficial when designing for the target audience; taking what is popular and practical whilst making the design slightly more innovative than other competitors. In the end creating an outcome that is interesting, easy to use and possibly containing hidden messages within to make the audience feel clever.

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