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The Society Portal

World Summit on the Information Society, Geneva

World Summit on the Information Society, Geneva


A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Societies are characterized by patterns of relationships (social relations) between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent of members. In the social sciences, a larger society often exhibits stratification or dominance patterns in subgroups.

Societies construct patterns of behavior by deeming certain actions or speech as acceptable or unacceptable. These patterns of behavior within a given society are known as societal norms. Societies, and their norms, undergo gradual and perpetual changes.

Insofar as it is collaborative, a society can enable its members to benefit in ways that would not otherwise be possible on an individual basis; both individual and social (common) benefits can thus be distinguished, or in many cases found to overlap. A society can also consist of like-minded people governed by their own norms and values within a dominant, larger society. This is sometimes referred to as a subculture, a term used extensively within criminology.

More broadly, and especially within structuralist thought, a society may be illustrated as an economic, social, industrial or cultural infrastructure, made up of, yet distinct from, a varied collection of individuals. In this regard society can mean the objective relationships people have with the material world and with other people, rather than "other people" beyond the individual and their familiar social environment.

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An illustration of the beginning of Daylight Saving Time
Daylight saving time is the convention of advancing clocks so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less. Typically clocks are adjusted forward one hour near the start of spring and are adjusted backward in autumn; the ancients lengthened summer hours instead. Presaged by a 1784 satire, modern DST was first proposed in 1907 by William Willett, and 1916 saw its first widespread use as a wartime measure aimed at conserving coal. Despite controversy, many countries have used it since then; details vary by location and change occasionally. Adding daylight to afternoons benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours, but causes problems for farmers and other workers whose hours depend on the sun. Extra afternoon daylight cuts traffic fatalities; its effect on health and crime is less clear. DST is said to save electricity by reducing the need for artificial evening lighting, but the evidence for this is weak and DST can boomerang by boosting peak demand, increasing overall electricity costs. DST's clock shifts complicate timekeeping and can disrupt meetings, travel, billing, medical devices, and heavy equipment.

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Punch (magazine)Credit: John Tenniel; Engraver: Joseph Swain;
Restoration: Adam Cuerden

A Punch cartoon from 17 June 1876 showing Russia preparing to let slip "the dogs of war", its imminent engagement in the growing conflict between Slavic states in the Balkans and Turkey, while policeman John Bull (representing Britain) warns Russia to take care. The Slavic states of Serbia and Montenegro would declare war on Turkey at the end of June, and Russia formally joined the war in April 1877.

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The Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems, the symbols from which the movement derives its name.

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Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed to be the author of The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy. Sun Tzu has had a significant impact on Chinese and Asian history and culture, both as an author of The Art of War and through legend. Sun Tzu, also known as Sun Tze or Sun Wu in other translations, was a historical figure whose authenticity is questioned by historians. This is a Chinese name which would usually mean the family name comes first however "Zi" (子; "Tzu" in Wade–Giles transliteration) was used as a suffix for the family name of a respectable man in ancient Chinese culture. In this case, 子 "Tzu" is not the personal or family name. It is a rough equivalent to "Sir" and is commonly translated into English as "Master". Traditional accounts place him in the Spring and Autumn period of China (722–481 BC) as a military general serving under King Helü of Wu, who lived c. 544–496 BC. Modern scholars accepting his historicity place the completion of The Art of War in the Warring States period (476–221 BC), based on the descriptions of warfare in the text, and on the similarity of text's prose to other works completed in the early Warring States period. Traditional accounts state that his descendant, Sun Bin, also wrote a treatise on military tactics, titled Sun Bin's Art of War. Both Sun Wu and Sun Bin were referred to as Sun Tzu in classical Chinese writings, and some historians believed that Sun Wu was in fact Sun Bin until Sun Bin's own treatise was discovered in 1972. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Sun Tzu's The Art of War grew in popularity and saw practical use in Western society. His work continues to influence both Asian and Western culture and politics.

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Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, Chapter XVI.

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