Field Observation Assignment Guidelines (200 points)
Purpose: For this assignment, each student will devote a minimum of one hour to observing a cultural context of their choosing. Contexts for observation could include a specific event (e.g., a wedding, a funeral, a graduation ceremony, a sporting event, a concert) or a public or semi- public space (e.g., a coffee shop, a store, a café, a park, a train station). You should take detailed field notes while you observe, paying particular attention to gendered patterns of communication (verbal and nonverbal). Then, you should answer a series of questions in short essay format. In your responses, you are expected to apply course concepts and/or theories and cite the readings.
Part 1: Field Notes (20 points)
Students should devote a minimum of one hour to observing a cultural context of their choice. You must do this individually. During observations, it is important that students are respectful, ethical, and culturally sensitive. Depending on the context students choose to analyze, it may be necessary to acquire permission to observe. For this portion of the assignment, students must take detailed field notes. The notes can be hand written or typed (as long as notes are legible).Note: If you hand write your field notes you will need to scan them and upload a PDF copy to the appropriate submission dropbox. Field notes will be evaluated based on (1) the quality and quantity of content, (2) attention to detail in observation notes, (3) the type of information recorded, and (4) organization. AFTER collecting your field observation data, you should submit a paper in which you answer a series of questions about your observations (see Part 2 below).
Part 2: Field Observation Analysis (180 points)
For this portion of the assignment, students must submit a field observation analysis in which they must answer 3 critical questions. This part of the assignment should be treated as a formal writing assignment. Answer each question in short essay format (include a brief intro, body, and brief conclusion for each question). Your answers should not be a list of observations, but cohesive, well organized, short essays.
Questions should be answered in detail and should demonstrate critical thinking. Each answer should take up 2-4 pages (6-12 pages in total). This assignment will be evaluated based on the thoughtfulness of your responses, the depth of your analyses, the quality of writing, and your ability to connect course material to your observations and analyses. This means you should cite relevant texts in your analysis. You should use/cite course materials in your responses to each question. You may also cite additional research that was not assigned by me (but this is not required). The questions are listed below:
1.How is communication gendered within this context?
a.Describe the context of your field observation in detail.
b.Explain the relationship between communication and context, with a focus ongender.
Note: For Question 1, you should explain how the context is gendered. Focus on context rather than individual communication practices. For example, let’s say you observe at a Starbucks in West Hollywood, CA. At a coffee shop, the gendered communication may be less obvious, but I will give you some examples/ideas for things you could address here. First, are there all sex bathrooms? Or, is there a women’s room and a men’s room? When there are women’s and men’s rooms, intersex people are excluded. Further, there is an underlying assumption of cisgender and heterosexual customers (consider the interrelationships between sex, gender, and sexuality) when bathrooms are separated by sex. You can also pay attention to the décor of the coffee shop (artifacts communicate!). Further, some coffee drinks are considered to be more masculine (e.g., black coffee) while others are considered to be less masculine (e.g., skinny vanilla latte). Why do we consider some drinks to be more feminine than others? –these are just some ideas/things to think about. Additionally, you could/should address the social, political, historical context—these various layers of context influence gender and communication. For instance, in West Hollywood, the environment is much more accepting of gender nonconformity and it is also known for its Queer culture. As you can see, there is A LOT you can say with regard to context, gender, and communication. For Q1, you may need to locate some outside research to support your claims.
2.In what ways do the people within this context conform to and/or deviate from cultural definitions of femininity and masculinity?
a.Offer specific examples from your observations and analyze those observations using course concepts.
Note: For Question 2, you should focus on individual communication practices. Consider masculine/feminine ways of speaking, the use of space, dress, paralanguage. Also, you might address gendered language here.
3.What did you learn from this activity?
a. What did you learn about cultural meanings of gender?
b. What did you learn about yourself?
Note: For Question 3, I’d like to see some critical self-reflection. You probably noticed things in your observations that had previously gone unnoticed. WHY had you never noticed this before? How do you participate in upholding the gender order? We all play some role and it is essential we confront this as part of the learning process.