This assignment is designed for you to practice observing people, culture and social interaction. It also involves you engaging in “deviant” behavior by breaking a social norm in a particular setting. Write your papers in a format using one-inch margins, double-spaced, 12-point font. I expect your papers to be at least 6-7 pages in total (maybe more!). If you have only a few pages, then you’re not writing enough detail and description. The assignment involves four steps:
Step #1: Find a Field Site
In order to focus your efforts, you need to find people and interactions to observe and participate within. We call this a “field site,” where you can witness groups, people and interactions. You will be required to attend this site ALONE. Examples of places include: a sporting event, a coffee shop, a food court, the mall, a farmer’s market, the beach, the airport, or any place where there are enough people around. You may need to switch your field site if there is not enough interaction!
Step #2: Conduct a 45-Minute Observation
When you have found your “field site,” go ALONE and conduct a 45-minute observation, making notes with pen/paper on what you see. Try not to use a laptop or a phone. Look for particular people you can watch and “get to know” just by observing them and their interactions. As you observe, note the following:
- Identify and describe the field site (location). What are the sounds, smells, and sights you see? When did you go (time and date)? Be as detailed as possible in your description of the field site.
- What kinds of individuals do you see? Who are they as individuals? Pay attention to their gender, age, race/ethnicity, nationality, class, and any other characteristics. Who are the individuals to one another (think mother/daughter, friends, lovers, co-workers)? How do you know? What “clues” are you paying attention to in order to figure out who each individual is? Be specific and incredibly detailed! Choose AT LEAST THREE specific individuals to write about in your paper and address these points in detail.
- What kinds of social interactions do you see? Who are the individuals, how are they interacting, and why do their interactions catch your attention? What conclusions can you make about the people you’ve been watching just by observing them? Choose AT LEAST THREE specific interactions to write about in your paper.
- What social norms (folkways, mores, taboos, and laws) do you see occurring in the field site? Are people following these norms? How do you know? Do you see anyone violating them? How do you know? What sanctions do you see taking place (think rewards and punishments for our social norms)?
Step #3: Engage in “Deviant Behavior”
When you have finished observing your site, choose oneparticular norm that you want to intentionally “break” for the purposes of the assignment. Remember, please do not break a law. Otherwise, you run the risk of legal sanctions! Go ahead, and engage in your chosen deviant behavior. As you do so, note the following:
- What specific norm did you choose to break in the setting? Why did you choose that norm?
- Describe what happened during the breaking of your chosen norm. Be specific!
- What was it like engaging in your choice of deviant behavior? How did you feel?
- What sanctions took place when you were breaking the norm or after you engaged in the deviant behavior (think rewards and/or punishments)?
Step #4: Report the Results & Apply the Sociological Imagination
Once you have finished your observation and deviant behavior, type up your hand-written notes and reflections in order to address the four points (in step #2) and the four points (in step #3). Make sure to answer them with as much detail as possible. Then, answer the following four questions:
- Overall, what was it like to sit and observe others? Did you like or dislike observing a field site? Would you consider doing social observations as a career? Why or why not?
- Overall, what was it like to intentionally engage in deviant behavior? Would you consider social experimentation (ethnomethodology) as a career? Why or why not?
- How does having a sociological lens help you understand what you observed?
- How does having a sociological lens help you understand your deviant behavior?