At least 3 pages of hand-written notes (but type them up)
DUE FRIDAY, NOV 8, 2019
This may be a group project in terms of general sociological observation. You are encouraged to go with one or more friends, from either in class or outside. However, each student must be physically present at the site, and each student must type up their own notes to upload to Canvas, individually.
The object of this exercise is to give you an opportunity to engage in the kind of work anthropologists do. Find a site â€“ a place in which meaningful action takes place â€“ and situate yourself in it in some way. It should be a site with which you are unfamiliar and, perhaps, a little uncomfortable. If you are a Republican, go to a College Democrats meeting (or vice-versa). If non-religious, go to a religious students group or prayer meeting (or vice-versa). If you are straight and not very comfortable around gay people, go to a â€œGLBT and alliesâ€ group meeting. If you are Baptist, go to a Pentecostal service. If you are Pentecostal, go to a Catholic service. If you are a Mormon, go to a Muslim service. If you are of age but never drink in public, go to a bar. If you could never see yourself at a bistro or a coffeeshop, go to one. If you hate sports, go to a game or a sports bar. If you are married and boring, go to a singles bar. If you are young and interesting, go to a boring old folks bar. The goal is to go to a place where you don’t know how to act, so you will pay attention to tiny details that you might otherwise miss.
Do not conduct any interviews, do not take photographs, and do not make any recordings. Speak to people only as you ordinarily would, as an ordinary person (introduce yourself, order coffee, be polite, etc.) Take notes on what you see and hear. Pay particularly close attention to the following:
- Setting: What is the physical setting of the situation you are observing? Perhaps sketch a map? Describe how the space is organized and used by people.
- Scene: How do people you are observing define the space? What do they seem to believe its purposes are, and what meanings do you think they associate with it?
- Participants: How many people are present? What are their characteristics (patterns of age, gender, other noticeable features)? What kinds of people exist in the situation you are describing? That is, what roles do people occupy as participants in the situation?
- Ends: Why do people come to this place? What are their goals and objectives? Do they seem to meet them? Why or why not?
- Actions: What kinds of actions take place in this situation? How many of these actually occur as you observe? In what order?
- Mood: What is the tone and manner in which actions take place? How do people seem to be feeling, as far as you can tell? Do their emotions change? What kinds of actions trigger shifts in the tenor of the situation?
- Objects: What kinds of objects are present? What significance do they appear to have? Who gives what to whom and, if you can tell, why?
- Interaction: How do the various kinds of participants interact with one another? Who says what to whom, in what ways, and to what effect?
- Self-Reflection (during as well as afterwards): What is your role in the situation? Who do people seem to think you are and why? How might your position in the situation affect peopleâ€™s behavior, and why? How do you feel about the site and the people in it? How might these feelings affect your observations? This is the most important part of the observation, to consider how your perceptions are affected by your own biases. In ethnographic fieldwork, the researcher’s own perceiving body is the main instrument of data collection. We need to know how the various wrinkles in ourselvesâ€”our upbringing, religious faith, desires, attitudes, past experiences, values, fears, etc.â€”affect what we are perceiving, either positively or negatively.