Cultural Observation Culture is the sum total of learned beliefs, values, and customs in which a people of a particular society live. Culture is dynamic and always changing but retains patterns that form its basic infrastructure. Many aspects of a people’s society make up one’s culture including religion, economy, language, politics, etc. Cultures are not finite and in many instances have there own number of sub cultures within them.
This variation among cultures brings about man consequences between populations, which can be positive or negative. I have been given the task to use participant observation in order to form a complete report on the daily social interactions of humans in the Saint Louis area. The location I chose is in the middle of a higher learning environment known as a college campus. The area lies in the middle of the campus and has a large structure with a device that measures and tracks time. It is a frequently used path by the students of the campus, which allows for many social observations to be made.
As stated earlier the space is a walking highway for students with the most traffic-taking place in the morning at the end of each hour for a period of about ten minutes. The pathway is a large round a bout that circles around the clock tower structure with 4 perpendicular paths continuing off from the circle. I sat on a large concrete staircase that overlooks the circle, for my observations. I sat for one and a half hours observing the following. For the duration of my observation, which began at 11:00am I had many people sitting on the stair case fixture in front of me.
At one point there were a total of 23 people sitting on the concrete stairs. These 23 people were paired off in groups of no more than 6. When the time came closer to the end of the hour, there was a dramatic increase in traffic flow around the clock structure. Many of the people walked at a steady pace and seemed to have been walking solo. Some people walked in groups but if it was a group of more than one the majority walked in pairs. As the new hour began the traffic flow dramatically dropped. The make up of the study population varied in many categories.
The ages of the people were predominantly that of 18-21 year olds, with occasional middle-aged people and young professionals. During the rush of traffic it seemed to have a larger population of females than males walking through the area. This was also found for the people who chose to sit on the concrete stairs. Of the people who sat down, 15 of them were female and the rest male. During the rush I noticed many different ethnicities that ranged from Caucasian white, to Asian, to Middle Eastern, and African American. Disregarding race, a pattern among the people arose during observation.
The females leaned towards wearing more high cost garments than the males did. This related to the observation that many women seemed to be of high economic status in comparison to males. In regards to discernable space I found that females were much more prone to putting minimal space between themselves when interacting. Males seemed to keep a good distance from each other while interacting. For the majority, during the rush of walking traffic, people followed the rule of walking to there right while entering the circle even though this rule was not stated on any sign that I could see.
Some people were more aggressive in there walking patterns and people on bicycle contraptions were permitted the right of way in most occasions. Physical interactions were most abundant among females and males who interacted. Males who were walking with a female had less space between them than males who were walking with another male. People sitting on the stairs would occasional engage in physical contact with the highest percentage of outcomes being a laugh following the physical touch.
Overall I noticed a pattern that people of the same “race” for the majority stuck together, giving the impression of subcultures with in the population. Given the location, I concluded that the reason for all the people in the walking rush had the shared commitment of attending classes for learning purposes. For the people who sat down on the stairs it was much harder to find a reason for there public social interaction. The weather was optimal that day which would most likely attract such a leisurely activity response.
The population was visually extremely diverse but some common trends were found that differentiated people. The most apparent difference was that of the nature of the people of Asian descent. They more than anyone kept to there own group and clearly spoke a different language than the rest of the population. This could be a barrier between them and the rest of the people who seem to speech the dominant language of the area. From my observations I have been able to determine many things about the population of Saint Louis.
More research must be done especially with people of different ages in order to get a more accurate picture of how people in Saint Louis behave but from my observations many patterns stuck out among people from ages 18-21. One of the most puzzling aspects was the wearing of a garment on the top of a person’s head. I could not find a distinct pattern as to what type of people or what situations these head garments were supposed to be for. The only practical usage I came up with was the use of it to keep the sun of their eyes, but many did not use it for this purpose.
If it pertains to simply a fashion accessory it would appear to be more common among younger male populations. Another observation was the commonality of wearing t-shirts or other garments that either said Saint Louis University or Saint Louis in some form. From this I have determined that people are proud of the organizations and areas they have some sort of investment in. This also led me to believe that people use their garments to communicate subtly to other people certain information about themselves.
A majority of garments worn had some form of there language written on them. Overall more research must be done on the human race to cross-reference these ideas. It is obvious that culture is dynamic and works on several different levels in this complex society of people. Simply observing can tells us many things about there culture but will only get us so far. We must make plans to immerse ourselves in there actual culture to truly get an accurate picture of what it means to be part of Saint Louis, and ultimately, what it means to be human.