Defining ‘Nightlife’

It’s likely that you have a clear idea of what constitutes nightlife. Images you associate with ‘nightlife’ are probably stills from bars, clubs and partying. It’s a grounded concept for anyone who has lived in a metropolis, or even watched their fair share of cinema.

However, this general feeling-of-a-nightlife essence lacks the direction I’m looking for. With the intention of setting content parameters for Ammeter, something I’ve defined as a nightlife and electronic music blog, I would like to arrive at a comprehensive definition of “nightlife.” Sometimes it’s tough for me to look at this blog and place my finger on its focus. Perhaps this definition will guide me

The OED defines “nightlife” as “social activities or entertainment available at night in a town or city.”

This definition shoots in the right direction, but it seems lazy. According to the OED, a sushi dinner, a tipsy social walk around a lake, and a house party could constitute ‘nightlife.’ At the same time, going to a daytime public disco, or staying out through the night and into the next day, activites which I would categorize as ‘nightlife,’ are not included. I like where the OED definition is heading with ‘social activites and entertainment’ as being the primary subjects of nightlife, but I think it can be narrowed down.

There is a potential energy around the ‘night-‘ of nightlife that deserves recognition. Since the activity of socialization and entertainment can happen at any time of day, I don’t read the ‘night’ of nightlife literally. However, it is an important qualifier, for ‘life’ alone is far too vague, and something like ‘entertainment and social life’ is far too beaurocratic. The ‘night-‘ of nightlife is important, and not because it refers to life after the sun sets.

What is it about ‘night-‘ that’s important then? The night is a time of un-seeing, of blindness, of hiding, of concealment. It is at night that the undesirable activities of humanity are represented. It draws our fascination because of Its frequent status at the edge of our social paradigm. It is here that nightlife rests. It is at the edge. It is the place where humans push their comfort zones and excite their minds, whether that has to do with dance, intoxicants, or socialization. It is this quality that the OED misses.

Thus, nightlife, as defined by Ammeter, is:

“A public gathering whose assembly, entertainment, and liminal activity is the intent of their gathering.”

I tend to roll my eyes at the word ‘liminal,’ though I struggle to find another word that sits comfortably in the definition.

‘Liminal’ may be at the end of a use trend in minority politics, yet it is just pretentious enough that my computer wants to auto-correct it. If ‘liminal’ is anything which has been relegated to the fringes of society due to its peculiarity, then it is a quality which is well assigned to nightlife. The average partier tends to exceed their comfort zone when going out. Intoxicants are popular because they inhibit personal regulation and facilitate a stepping into a sort of liminal personalities. Additionally, this definition signals towards a nightlife that subversive or unusual, which is a worthwhile institution to search for in a blog.

I imagine this definition will shift and update as I discover nightlife which rests outside of its scope.

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