I worked out pretty early on that if I was going to look at the social side of Port Melbourne, I would be hearing quite a bit about change. However, I did not realise that in just a bit over a year I would also have seen changes taking place.
I have watched changes in the membership and plans of some groups. There have been cafes open and pubs change hands. Children have gone from pram bound to walking, and some other people have taken up using a walker to get around. Blocks have gone from building sites to homes, and homes have become building sites. Zebra crossings have been created, and on street parking reconfigured to make way for a median strip.
Generally the changes I have seen have continuity with the events recent years that have gone past. There has been a trend of an increase of cafes in inner suburbs for quite a few years now, we all get older, and Melbourne’s population continues to grow.
Some of the changes seem to mark semi-milestones. Checkers was apparently the last of the wharfie pubs to still have its name, and I heard some of the slightly concerned chatter when it was repainted and renamed (although it is still a ‘tradie’ pub, albeit one which also caters for Albert Park families with children).
Yet it seems to be a rather settled time in Port Melbourne; the types of changes being observed are similar to the changes occurring over the past couple of decades.
Ann Swidler set out a theory for the role of culture in settled and unsettled times (Swidler 1986). In unsettled times ideologies are explicitly employed, but selected based on the value of the strategies they allow. In settled times, values still matter but they are part of decision making around how to undertake particular actions, and there can be quite a wide gap between what people say they should do and how they carry out their actions. This is not because culture does not matter, but the different strategies of action offered by culture fit so well with the social structure that choosing contradictory elements from the cultural ‘repertoire’ does not matter so much.
Is the continuation of change in Port Melbourne a type of being settled, and does it have any impact on the role ideologies play?
Swidler, A. (1986). “Culture in action: Symbols and strategies.” American Sociological Review 51(2): 273-286.