Ata Collection: Non-Participant Observation
Visit a public place with which you are only slightly familiar or not familiar at all. This might be a coffee shop, shopping mall, or museum, restaurant, or library…
The task will be to try to understand the complexity of the social setting. Take notes of what you hear, see, smell, feel (i.e. vibrations from traffic), touch, etc.
1. The setting: Look around and write down notes about the entire physical setting that you are viewing. Draw a floor plan of the site and include entrances, windows, furnishings, etc. Note the textures of the various types of building materials in the site, the colors, the lighting sources, the elevations of the building, etc.
2. Write down what you smell in the location.
3.Write down what you hear as ambient noise (i.e. not the content of human voices) but what do you hear in a general manner.
4. Describe several of the people in general. Does there seem to be a common style of dress? Do they seem to be moving in a common way?
5. Focus on two people who seem to be together in the location. Describe their age, gender, general appearance, dress, the activities they are engaged in, and what objects they have with them? What do they seem to be doing? What is their physical location to one another? What is the pattern of their interaction? Is one talking and one listening? Do they look at one another? what would you surmise are their relationships to one another? What might you surmise about their moods or attitudes toward (a) one another and (b) toward the setting?
6. Focus on just one person who does not appear to be at the location with someone else. It miht be a solitary visitor, or it might be someone who works at the location. Describe that person in as much detail as you can. In addition, describe what is the occupation this person is primarily engaged in? Describe what you surmise is this persons mood? Do you notice anything about how this person might differ as she/he in the process of engaging with someone versus being solitary? How would you describe this persons relationship with the other people in the setting.
After you leave the setting, take some time to review your notes and add more as you recall the setting and the people you observed.
You will then write a paper to answer the above questions in as detailed manner as possible. In addition, reflect upon the following questions at the conclusion of your paper:
7. If you had all the time in the world to do a study here, what three things would you look for and focus upon if you were to return to the setting. for instance, who might you want to interview if you could? Or where else in the setting might you position yourself for further observation?
8. Reflect upon how you approached this assignment after it was introduced to you in class. How did you decide where to go? What were you anticipating about the assignment before you engaged in the observation practice? How did you feel as you initially arrived at the setting and started the assignment? How do you think your mood/attitude changed during the course of the 60-minutes you were conducting the observation?
9. What difficulties did you experience at the setting? How do you think you would overcome those challenges if you were to do another non-participant observation?
Please cover all 9 sections that are listed above!