Go to a public place and observe the people there for 25 minutes. What are the details of the location? Describe the general context (time of day, lighting, sounds, vibe/energy, etc.). Describe the people around you and their sociodemographic characteristics (age, race/ethnicity, gender/sex, socioeconomic status, etc.). Please contact your instructor if you have questions or concerns about visiting a public setting or need to discuss other accommodations.
Identify two or more social norms that people engaged in at the public place. A norm is a social rule. There are many norms that help to frame how we are supposed to behave in our daily lives, one example is gender norms (what are social rules we follow to ‘be masculine’ and to ‘be feminine’); another example is standing in line (consider what would happen if you cut everyone in line at 8am in a Starbucks?). Also consider any norm-breaking behavior that you observe.
How do these norms you observed in the scene fit with sociological concepts and theories we’ve learned so far in class? Some examples of sociological concepts we’ve learned about so far include gender roles and emotional labor. (What is a “sociological concept?” They are all the concepts we’ve been learning each week in our course materials such as “socialization,” “norms” and “folkways.”)
Reflect on your experience. How was this observing others through a sociological lens different from when you’ve “people watched” in the past? What perspectives do you think a sociologist can bring to our understanding of everyday human behavior?
In any public scene, all of us will notice different things, and find different observations important or unimportant. In your peer responses, help one another identify sociodemographic characteristics, social norms, or sociological concepts that the classmate may not have noticed. Consider helping one another notice common themes in the types of public places you choose and your observations of people in those scenes.
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