Every year, an inter-hall photography competition is organised for the residence halls, with a theme based on one of the halls. Last year’s theme, Prosperity, was based on the HSBC Prosperity Hall (Hall 2). This year, the theme Civility is based on the Alumni Civility Hall (Hall 3).

The word “Civility” is meant to correspond to the Alumni Civility Hall’s Chinese name “樂禮”. The Chinese name is derived from an old Chinese saying which means roughly that the happy and the optimistic will make the world harmonious, and the civil and the courteous will help keep the world in order. As always, the theme has a very wide scope, and can carry a very different meaning for each individual.

From an academic point of view, civility is defined as formal politeness and courtesy in behaviour and speech. It refers to the way people and groups conform to social modes, and thus acts as a foundation principle for society and law.

The Residence Master of Alumni Civility Hall, Dr. Cheung Chor-yung, says that civility to him means rule-governed human behavior and manners, or in other words, the social order.

“For me, civility means being considerate towards others, in the sense of knowing and caring enough to not intentionally do things that make others uncomfortable or annoyed.”

For Wikipedia, one of the most used encyclopedias, civility means “to treat each other with consideration and respect”. In the world of the Wikipedia editors, civility is part of its code of conduct and serves as one of the five pillars that help keep the site up and running.

For the 33 miners trapped in the Chilean mine for 70 days back in 2010 and their rescuers, civility meant keeping the social order within their community of 33 and shaving (amongst the first things sent underground to them were shavers, as shaving was thought to be a sign of civilized behaviour).

Civility can mean a lot of things, and although some people’s views might be similar, definitions of civility will still vary from culture to culture and from individual to individual. To see how the contestants of this year’s photography competition define civility, don’t forget to send your entry and check out this year’s entries.