Since the 1800's Civic Center has been the hub of culture, government and urban public spaces in San Francisco. The City’s history is deeply ingrained in the fabric of Civic Center, where cultural and ceremonial events have played out in these prominent spaces. Stroll down to Civic Center, just steps from NEMA San Francisco and start exploring a few fun activities this month:

Civic Center Carnival. The Civic Center Carnival will kick off Thursday, August 24 and run through Sunday, August 27, on Fulton Street between the Main Library and the Asian Art Museum. The lively event will feature carnival games and rides, including a Ferris wheel, 100-foot super slide, fun house, spinning teacups and more. Guests can indulge in classic fair treats including hand-dipped corn dogs, Hawaiian shave ice, funnel cakes, popcorn, cotton candy, caramel apples and French fries. Admission to the Civic Center Carnival requires a $10 minimum purchase toward games, rides or food for each person over 12.

Asian Art Museum’s East West Bank Art Terrace Opening. Join the Asian Art Museum for their opening of the “city’s largest rooftop art experience,” on August 24 at 5pm. The event includes, “drinks, a live DJ, and more on the terrace as you explore some of [their] biggest works of art yet.” More information and tickets on the Asian Art Museum’s site.

Middle Ground from the Exploratorium returns to Civic Center through March 2024. Find it at the Larkin Street steps of the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. People of all ages are invited to pull up a chair and experience Middle Ground, an exciting outdoor exhibition about how people interact with one another.

Whether you’re a denizen of the densest urban metropolis or the smallest small town, no person is an island. What goes into the stories we tell ourselves about other people—whether they’re on the streets we share, in our memories and our newsfeeds, or on the other side of the world?

Social scientists have studied how we think, feel, and behave in relation to other people for decades. Their investigations have shed light on bias and stereotyping, humor and generosity, how we work together, and how we pull apart into tribes.

Middle Ground explores these topics while giving people a chance to connect with others and experience directly the human phenomenon of the exhibition. It will be available free to all comers on the steps of the San Francisco Main Library for eight months, at which point it will travel to another location in San Francisco.

Play: Play your way to a deeper understanding of social science phenomena. Pull up a chair and play a bit! Explore interactive digital content about how we think, feel, and behave in relation to other people. Pick a side, guess why people do the sometimes-puzzling things they do, follow an order or break a rule—shed a little light on the why and how we go through our daily lives alongside our friends, neighbors, and strangers. When sizing up others, how do you make your judgments? Why do people do the things they do? Do you usually follow orders or rules, or ignore them? What do you do when a stranger needs help?

Ponder: Dive into what makes us—and others—tick. No matter where we live, we walk among others. We watch people, form opinions, follow the crowd or not. All day, we decide how to be with people. For decades, social scientists have studied and learned much about such human interactions. In the essays below, discover some of what shapes our social lives.

Thinking About People: Our thoughts and feelings guide our social interactions. Much of the thinking we do is focused on the people we meet and interact with. Scientists studying social cognition—how we think about people —have identified various ways our minds work to process social information and make sense of our interactions with others.

The Effect of Others: We spend our lives watching and responding to each other. Spend time in any public space watching the crowds and you’ll see examples of what scientists call social influence—the varied ways people change their behavior because of the presence of others. Notice how individuals respond to orders and requests, go along with a group, mirror the actions of others, compete, and cooperate.

Being Sociable. We choose how to interact and relate to others. People interact with each other in a variety of ways. These interactions don’t always go smoothly: people push and shove on a crowded train, cut into line, yell at each other in traffic. Are such stressful encounters inevitable, just a part of life? Maybe the fleeting interactions we have with strangers aren’t worth the time and effort we invest in our close relationships. But it turns out that even brief, positive interactions with strangers can have important impacts, adding meaning to life and making our days more pleasant. The work of social scientists gives hints for improving our interactions with the people we encounter daily.

Stop by and learn something new at this exciting, free outdoor exhibition on the Larkin Street steps - or, explore fresh interactive digital content about how we think, feel, and behave toward other people.

Image credit: Civic Center website

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