I selected the coffee shop as the field site of my planned study since the social interactions and behavior of the patrons and the coffee shop staff are interesting and so much can be learned from them especially in their relationships, the daily exchanges of pleasantries and information and for most, coming to the coffee shop is a habit that they do on a daily basis. I am interested at how a coffee shop can take on different meanings to those who frequent it and how they coactively share the space in the coffee shop as their own.
I have been to this coffee shop a number of times, enough to become familiar with the waitresses and I had seen two or more people at the same seat whenever I visit the shop. I also had some friends come to the shop but take their orders on the go and they have regular orders which the waitresses seem to have memorized. I know that there has been a clamor for studying up (Priyadharshini, 2003), but since it involves the issue of power and authority which in a coffee shop is not so much evident, I would rather do a study across the relationships of the customers and the coffee shop staff as well as across customers.
This would enable me to observe and understand the social rules, interactions, and codes in the shop which may or may not be evident to the customers and staff alike. 2) What preconceived ideas do you have about this space and the people that inhabit it? What are the obstacles an anthropologist might face in studying this place from an emic perspective? How do you plan to overcome these obstacles? I have always liked going to this coffee shop, the waitresses are friendly, they have a pretty good idea of what is happening to people, they are also quick to notice changes in their patrons and they have excellent food.
The coffee is also very good and whenever I need a quick fix or when I am bored I like going to this coffee shop. This coffee shop is not like the modern al fresco types or like the ones frequented by young professionals and students. This coffee shop is more of the community diner which serves breakfast and coffee. This place has a comfortable atmosphere and everyone seems to know each other, some people drop by the shop on their way home or even have brunch here. However, since the place is homey and likely to be frequented by regulars, being accepted as a new customer is difficult.
For example, a new customer may be noticed by everybody and the people there might not behave as they usually do in the presence of a stranger. I might face this difficulty if I start to frequent the coffee shop to conduct my observation because even if they are familiar with me, they know that I only go there twice a week, if I go there everyday, they might think it odd. The emic perspective focuses on the intrinsic cultural distinctions that are meaningful to the members of a given society or group (Haviland, Prins, Walrath & McBride, 2008).
An anthropologist might have difficulty in using this perspective because the coffee shop is a transitory, that is, people come to the place voluntarily and although some regulars do so on a daily basis, there are those who do so only when they can, but it does not mean that they are not part of the group or that they have no membership to this group. An anthropologist has to be able to penetrate the group to be able to learn the culture and social relationships of those in the coffee shop.
I plan to overcome this obstacle by changing the pattern at which I visit the coffee shop and by indicating that I like being in the place prior to the start of my field observation. In this way, the people in the coffee shop would not become suspicious and they would not be always conscious of my presence. Since the goal of the study is to determine the inner cultural codes of the people in the coffee shop, I should not interpret any exchanges or interactions based on my own biases since the coffee shop members assign their own meaning and interpretations.
3) Generate at least five qualitative, ethnographic research questions that interest you about this site. Explain how these questions relate to what you have already observed. 1. How does the group define and assign membership to the coffee shop regulars? 2. Why do regulars frequent the coffee shop? 3. What is the quality of the relationship between the coffee shop customers and the waitresses? 4. How does the group resolve conflict within customers and waitresses? 5. How do the customers value the coffee shop and its services?
I have noticed that there is clearly a sense of group membership in the coffee shop and I would like to find out how the group assign membership does and how meanings they attach to becoming a member. Since being a regular is predefined as frequenting the establishment, I would also want to find out the reasons for frequenting the shop. The relationship between the customers and the waitresses are evident, but I want to know what kind of relationship it is and how do both parties define their relationship and whether it extends to their lives outside of the shop.
Conflict is a reality for most groups or when two or more people are involved, I am curious as to how the members respond to conflict and how they resolve it. Lastly, it is observed that the coffee shop is more than just the coffee and the food to the customers; I would want to find out how the customer values the coffee shop.
Priyadharshini, E. (2003). Coming unstuck: Thinking otherwise about Studying Up. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 34; 4, 420-437. Haviland, W. , Prins, H. , Walrath, D. & McBride, B. (2008). Anthropology: The Human Challenge 12th ed. California: Wadsworth/Thomson.