Assignment :This week you will complete an observation activity in your community. This activity will help prepare you for the Week 7 Assignment. This Forum is unique so read the instructions and point values carefully.
Student 1 (Wilson): For the week 5 forum I decided I would observe behaviors on public mass transit. I must remind you that I am currently stationed in England and the use of mass transit within the urban setting is not that of the United States. In the United States it is almost against social norms to take public transportation. I simply bring this up so that you understand that the bus is used by the richest and the poorest people in the community I live in, a great place to get a diverse group of people together and observe the social norms in action. Also, while you may read and say that we have the same norms in the US I would challenge you to question whether we truly have these norms or just tell ourselves that we do to feel better about our society. With that disclosure out of the way I can get on with my observations.
I ride the bus too and from work everyday. My observations took place in the early afternoon onboard a bus from the downtown area to the residential area of the coastal city of Portsmouth, England. The people who ride the bus are truly diverse. The bus started about a quarter full and when I got off there were probably only three or four seats remaining. There were elderly, kids (12 or 13), middle age and young adults. There were the well-dressed to the not so well dressed and several different races and ethnicities were present as well. As I sat and watched there were a few things that jumped out at me immediately.
First, when standing in line to board the bus the last person arriving at the stop gets on last, unless there are elderly in line then they get on first whether they were there first or not. Once on the bus the front of the bus is bypassed by the young, even if the back is almost full. This is so that the elderly can take the spots towards the front. As the bus filled and younger people started to sit in the front if an elderly person got on the bus most of the young would stand and move to the back so the elderly could sit in the front. This is not the first time I have seen this since moving to England, it happens nearly all the time.
Second, people won’t sit next to someone they don’t know until all the empty rows have someone sitting in them. Sometimes people will stand instead of sit just to keep from sitting next to a stranger. In addition, if someone sat next to a stranger both people immediately scoot to the edge of the seat as far from each other as they can get. As I watched this phenomena it reminded me that there were several other places I have seen very similar things occur, including in restrooms. While we are social beings we still need our personal space, “our bubble”.
I have always noticed these little things so I don’t think the way I was watching really changed based on this assignment. I don’t know that we truly need to understand our everyday behavior. Why must we always seek to understand everything, sometimes I think it is just as important to “be” as it is to understand. The biggest thing sociologists bring to the table is not the understanding of why we follow norms but why some don’t. Why do some remain seated while others stand, that is what is the most interesting thing about our cultures.
Student 2 (Parker): I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and I observed many different social norms while I exchanging some of my Christmas gifts. The first thing I noticed is how there is always a person who tries to welcome costumers as they walk in the store. Once I walked in I could feel the fresh air from inside and the lighting was not too bright but it was the right amount of lighting that does not hurt your eyes. I walked in and started shopping for other items and there was not as many people as expected after the holidays. There were multiple races within the store such as white, African American, Asian and Hispanic. The age range was between 20 to 60 years old, there was a few children too between the ages of 1 to 12. I saw two white females, one was about 30 years old and the other was 60 years old. The younger female was holding the older woman’s arm. I saw a Hispanic family of four, the mom, father, a girl around the age of 12 and a little boy around the age of four. The father and mom were walking ahead of their family, holding hands with each other, the little girl and the little boy were following behind. Once I finished with my shopping I got behind the line and waited patiently for my turn. When it was my turn the employee a white male around the age of 25 or so greeted myself and asked how my day was going, throughout my transaction he worked as fast as he can and kept eye contact with me.
The social norms that I saw during my time at Dick’s was how once you walk in there is someone there to welcome you in to the store. Another social norm is how the people were kind to the elderly such as letting them pass by first or assisting them in some way. One last social norm was how there was no cutting or misunderstanding when it came to make line.
There were several social norms that I observed at the store which fit with sociological concepts and theories that we have learned in class. The first one was gender roles, the father and mother walking ahead of their children. A second sociological concept was social rule, everyone waited patiently in line and there was no cutting, once someone arrived at the line they went to the back of the line and waited for their turn. One last sociological concept was presentation of self, the employer kept a short but friendly conversation with myself to get through my transaction quickly.
Overall, this was a great experience because it showed me how everything a person does has a meaning. Before, I never paid attention to what a person is doing because I did not see the point, I was taking care of my stuff. There are many perspectives that sociologist can bring to our understanding of everyday human behavior because when one observes the human behavior of several races they can compare how each are different or the same to better understand both races.
Student 3 (Gordy): Today, I had some training to do which happened to be at a local technical/career center in the local town. Although not totally public, there were average people (not just students) coming and going to different locations within the school – cosmetology, auto body, computer repair. As I was sitting for this training class; the class was comprised of people from all walks of life; I had time to sit back and really do some “people watching”. Everyone in the classroom were adults and there for a reason – to gain the information needed when trying to further their education. There were multiple papers to fill out, testing to do and speakers to listen to.
Signs were posted around the room indicating that no cell phones were allowed in the classroom. The facilitator emphasized in the opening statements that cell phone usage was prohibited and if anyone was caught with one out they would be dismissed from the orientation setting. The social norm would be to listen to the instructions, follow the rules and guidelines and notice the signs about the cell phones. Looking around the room from where I was sitting I saw several individuals with their cell phones out/ texting, emailing, etc. and some were even talking on the phone. I thought that this type of rebellion – knowing that they could be dismissed from the orientation and not allowed to proceed with the program would be crazy just for having the cell phone out for a duration of the time that we were there. Society has engrained in our thinking that we cannot live without being in touch at any given moment. There was another rule about eating in the classroom but I didn’t see any resistance to that requirement.
I feel that age, economic status or gender had no bias when it came to the cell phone usage. There were business professionals with their phones out – maybe they thought that they could claim needing it for work. There were older and younger individuals with their phones out also. The school did not instill enough fear within these individuals to refrain from using their phones. I don’t know if the facilitator didn’t see the violation or if they just knew they couldn’t do anything about it but I would have liked to witness someone being denied because of this violation – especially since they made it clear it was not allowed.
I feel that looking at people and really studying how they react to a situation allows each of us to have an understanding of the world that we live in. There are rule followers and rule breakers. Those that follow the rules sometimes can feel shunned because they have done everything right but those that broke the rules are still getting the same result and receiving the same outcome as if they also followed the rules. I feel that when a situation calls for rules and understanding that those rules need to be enforced. Sure, maybe not allowing someone to continue because of a phone is extreme but they should have corrected the problem instead of just allowing it to happen.
I think that this was a very interesting forum and truly allows us to look past the person but allowed us to analyze their behavior.