Term paper : Systematic obervation


The purpose of this exercise is to challenge you to leave common sense, to put behind all value judgments, and to dedicate yourself to a disengaged, fully objective definition of the social world.
Steps to follow

1. Having formed teams of 2, choose the location where you will be conducting your field assignment.

2. Prepare a notepad/notebook with the following titles on 3 different pages (you may need more than one page per section)
a) Physical/material/visual description of the premises
b) Description of the participants
c) Description of the interactions/action

3. Go on location for the first time (1h). Take a vast amount of objective notes pertaining to the description of things, objects, environments, for instance:
• «the door, mesuring approximately 4×2.5 meters, was made of a solid dark toned wood, and held in place by black metal hinges».
• «The room was 30×20 meters and its floor was covered by a black rubber mat of a high density, measuring approximately 1 inch. 8 windows were letting in the natural light of the sun, all of them being aligned on the wall facing north, while the rest of the walls were covered with electronic screens and pictures of human bodies, mostly covered in colorful and identical cloth. 6 of these screens were broadcasting physical activities and images at a high pace, while 3 were dedicated to the presentation of various services offered to a population defined as students».

4. Go on location for the second time (2h). This time, focus on a physical description of the participants. Try to imagine their roles, their functions, and give ample details on :
• How these roles affect their appearance, their position within the general space. How do they stand?
• How do they hold things?
• What’s the distance between each other?
• How do they define their territories?
• Do they have distinctive sings, symbols?
5. Go on location for a third and last time (2h). Try to imagine that you are confronted to a micro society, on another planet. They could be doing anything! Try to imagine how they are making sense of what’s going on. To do so, you must examine
• The organized forms of actions. These will help you trying to figure out the formal rules, the social roles, and the hierarchies that are structuring social action.
• The parallel, informal interactions. Theses will help you identify the informal rules, the way people are trying to strategically use the ressources at hand, the symbolic territories being claimed by the participants.
• Can you see any form of conflict? Of struggle for power or recognition? Do people adopt certain behaviors to elecit obedience (authority)?
• Who are the agents of social control? Of socialization?
• Is there any form of deviance and how is it contained?

6. Take a half-day to write your final report. Make sure you are using complete sentences, even if your notes were point-form. Here is what your report should look like:
a) 1.5 page of general description (the exterior of the building, the doorstep)
b) 2 pages of physical material description of the scene (your surroundings if you simply stand up and look around you)
c) 2 pages of detailed and objective elements that will help us understand what’s going on in a very objective way. (a+b+c = observations made the first time).

d) 5.5 pages of naïve/objective description of social actions (use observations made the second and third time). MAKE SURE you are able to illustrate 5 of the following 8 concepts:
• Social roles
• Informal Social Norms
• Formal Social Norms
• Agents of Social Control
• Agents of Socialization
• Territories of the self
• Authority
• Hierarchies

You MUST write a cover, and quote the litterature in an appropriate way, including the Power Point.

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