I decided for my social observation the mall would be a good place to start. I came there on a Friday evening when there should be plenty of people to watch. I also sat in the Barnes and Noble cafe after that to observe. I expected to see a lot of people shopping and conversing. A few things did stand out to me within the few hours I was there. Some things I didn’t expect to see. We are expected to behave a certain way in public determined by our culture as to what is acceptable. Some people stay well within the lines while some might stray outside the norms but never too far typically.
Usually the ones to travel to the extremes are adolescents and teenagers. This is what I observed. As I sat in the chair near the entrance to Bergner’s I noticed a couple groups1 of kids, they looked like they were probably in 8th grade or near there. One group totaled six kids and you could tell who the leaders with high status2 were in the group. They displayed achieved status3 and walked in the middle typically with couple others following behind trying to keep up and stay in the conversation.
I call it achieved status because they had more confidence and walked taller than the others, of course they could be from a rich family but from visual evidence achieved status seems to be the case here. The group seemed playful and was very pushy towards one another. While the leaders looked like they came out on top and were more dominant keeping the others in line, and sometimes ignoring the other members of the group, showing they weren’t impressed by them. Another Group was smaller with only three kids in it.
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These kids seemed like they had less energy and were more of wandering at a leisurely pace compared to the other group which was moving swiftly. Both groups walked by about three times, apparently they had nothing better to do with their time and weren’t shopping. I’m assuming they were probably dropped off by their parents to hang out at the mall with their friends and maybe get some food at the food court. Another idea is that their parents could be busy shopping and they are just wandering while their parents are busy, I think this is less probable.
The larger group was Dominated by all males, which is another thing I didn’t expect. You would think that the group would have at least one or two females in it, statistically speaking. The smaller group was female dominated with two females and a single male in it. I observed the male and he didn’t seem to follow his gender role4. This made me think because I have a gay friend and homosexual men seem to familiarize with females more easily than heterosexual males.
Also I noticed a trend that most gay men spent most of their time being raised by their mother with a more distant or even non-existent father figure. It is probably not fair to make assumptions about the lone male in the group, but I’m assuming he fits in this stereotype5. The other thing I noticed about this group is that they all seemed to be equal; there wasn’t one that put themselves before the others. I also sat in the cafe at Barnes and Noble for a while and observed socialization and interactions. The first people I noticed when I was sitting were a couple walking through the store.
The Female had her man by the hand, I noticed her hand was palm down, signifying authority, and was leading him off somewhere, maybe she was in a hurry to get somewhere or had just caught him eying another female. Either way she seemed to be the more dominant one in the relationship, which does not correspond with gender roles or the typical culture6 of ours. The next thing I noticed were the people sitting in the cafe. There were pairs of people everywhere, there were people sitting by themselves reading but there were a lot of groups of two, but never a group more than two.
This to me was interesting and I asked why this might be. I came to the conclusion that the coffee shop is a more intimate setting to socialize one on one, also the space was smaller so that could have contributed to the fact too. I noticed an elderly couple, they seemed to comfortable and familiar with each other that they didn’t need to even communicate verbally they could sort of sense what the other wanted and then asked a question. For example I noticed the man shifted his body and glanced toward snack sign, luckily I was within earshot to hear the conversations of the people around me.
She knew right away the old man was hungry and asked him if he wanted a cheesecake, Apparently this was one of his favorites cause he said “heck yeah! ”. The couple did not display value7 over one another, but rather value for each other. This was my day out evaluating the interactions and socialization of our local people here in Rockford. I am curious to see what kind of interactions I would see at a market in indo-china and how different that would be to our culture here. It might be so different that I couldn’t understand it.
I learned a lot by watching the people and found a few interesting things. Like how groups of teenagers with time can be so full of confidence and have what seems like all the time in the world on their hands. Also on the other side of the spectrum are the seniors I observed that seemed to be content and also have all the time in the world. While it seems for me there are not enough hours in a day to get everything I need done. 1. Groups: a number of people or things that are classed together 2.
Status: The economic or social level of an individual 3. Achieved Status: The level of status gained through effort or work 4. Gender Role: The social expectations of a male or female individual 5. Stereotype: an unreliable generalization about all members of a group 6. Culture: the totality of learned socially transmitted customs, knowledge, material objects, and behavior. 7. Value: a collective conception of what is considered good, desirable, and proper-or bad, undesirable, and improper in a culture.
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