According to the Edmonton Journal, a University of Alberta graduate student is writing her thesis on mosh pits for a degree in recreation and leisure studies.
Gabby Riches, 25, a master's student in the faculty of physical education, describes a mosh pit as a space in front of a stage where a group of fans gather and form a tightly packed crowd. A heavy metal mosh pit involves pushing, shoving and sometimes crowd surfing, whereas a punk mosh pit involves more swinging, jumping and diving. The "circle pit" and the "wall of death" are the two main types of mosh pit.
"Circle pits are most common in Europe. Everyone runs in a circle, and forms sort of a doughnut shape," Riches said.
"In the wall of death, two groups of people at either end of the floor run at each other, collide and form sort of a solid pit."
Riches who also runs a student group called "Heavy Metal On Campus" (see video below) described moshing as a social experience, something not widely understood or even respected by some.
"People go into the mosh pit to show their appreciation for the band if you know their music, or for playing your favorite songs," she said. "It's also a way to build friendships. Afterwards, moshers affirm each other with back-patting and hugs. Often they're the same people in the pit at each concert, so a community is formed."
On unwritten rules of mosh-pit etiquette:
"Rules of etiquette include that if someone falls you pick them up right away; not wearing spiked bands or jewelry that could injure others, and no sexual contact. People look out for each other in the pit; we want people to have a great experience."
On women in mosh pits:
"Women say they feel a sense of safety even though it's very physical and very aggressive, because the etiquette is being maintained. Male moshers are also very welcoming of having women in the mosh pit. Many men [I interviewed] revealed that they are pleasantly surprised when they receive a solid hit from a woman; it adds a different dynamic and challenge to the usually male experience. And overall, metalheads are active in constructing a sense of equality within the mosh pit."
An audio interview with Gabby Riches conducted by Peter Brown, the host of CBC Edmonton's afternoon radio show "Radio Active", can be streamed at this location.