Entry and Exit Rituals

While on a work retreat, I found myself in a conversation with one of my teammates about the various functions and forms of entry and exit rituals.

Entry and exit rituals delimit a particular region of space and/or time in which a certain language or set of codes or conditions are active or activated. The function of entry-exit rituals don’t seem so far from that of scopes and closures in programming. They implicate the de/composability of some kind of space (whether social, conceptual, physical etc.), and the part-whole relations that result. One could think about this in terms of, for instance, greeting a friend at the door and welcoming them in for dinner, or signalling a mid-conversation shift in topic, or an email from a client thanking a team for their work on a project which also implies its conclusion.

These rituals are important because they signal a shift in permissions, resources and relationships. They help coordinate actions and optimize resources. Sometimes they are explicit verbal cues, or incantations, other times they involve physical architecture and the passage of bodies, they might involve the exchange of tokens, or any combination of the above. But these rituals may also be completely mundane or innocuous kinds of activities. I like doing the dishes and minimizing clutter around the house before I sit down to write. In this sense, rituals are not necessarily recognizable by those not involved in them. I think they can be distinguished from other processes or activities by the function they serve: they signal a transition from one space (in the broadest sense) to another, and the activation or opening of new set of possibilities (in the broadest sense).

See also:

Wilfrid Sellar’s Some Reflections on Language Games


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