Another week, another blog post, and this time, we’re jumping head first into Unit 2: Writing in the Social Sciences! It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come- it feels like just yesterday we were meeting our breakout groups for the first time and choosing team names. Now we’re already halfway through the first semester, tackling midterms and starting new Unit Projects.
Prior to Tuesday’s class, we were supposed to commit to a place or subculture for us to investigate during this unit, and I was ready to go. Everything about the unit assignment seemed interactive and engaging, from the opportunity to conduct the research in-person to the final cumulative project, which would take the form of a video presentation. The challenge of finding a COVID-safe way to study ethnography added an additional level of anticipation to the project. It also didn’t hurt that I chose the local coffee shop, Open Eye Café, to be my topic of study. An opportunity to sit at a coffee shop, people watch, AND feel productive? Sign me up!
As we dive into this new exploration of writing in the social sciences, we’re going to be utilizing a new format of data analytics, and so we had to start off Tuesday by assessing the differences between quantitative and qualitative data. And goodness, did this feel like a breath of fresh air! While I feel satisfied with the job I did on my Unit One project, my entire article was based off of studies done by other people, in a field I am unfamiliar with, chock full of scientific jargon I’d never encountered before. Though I tried to learn as much about the influence of leptin and ghrelin regulation in the anticonvulsant mechanisms of the ketogenic diet, the whole subject matter still felt pretty foregin to me. Doing a project based on data that I can observe and comprehend sounds like heaven, and I really look forward to getting to submerge myself in the ethnography of a coffee shop, adding my own input to the observations I make.
We then learned how to create APA citations and, well, I don’t like citations. I’m all for giving credit where credit is due, but the knowledge that just a stray period or a misplaced italicization can get someone investigated for plagiarism- that’s scary! Of course, this caused me to approach APA citations with some trepidation, but I was actually pleasantly surprised with the format of it. Maybe it’s the humanities major in me instinctively recoiling from anything vaguely STEM-related, but CSE always seemed like a random conglomeration of colons and abbreviations. APA just looked nicer, with its neat little parentheses and italicized journal titles. Call it confirmation bias all you want, but everything in the social sciences simply seems to make more sense.
We then observed the almost Machiavellian way LEGO utilizes ethnographies to advertise their products (who knew there was so much gendered subtext in plastic building blocks?), and then we proceeded to workshop our Research Questions. With the help of my group, I decided to monitor the demographic of people who elect to eat outdoors at Open Eye and use a QR-code survey to investigate their motivations for doing so. With this creative approach in mind, I left Tuesday’s class excited to down some coffee and get started on my study.
We returned on Thursday with our Feeder 2.1 drafts finished and ready to workshop. Given how much I love coffee shops, I have to admit I was a bit underwhelmed with the amount of coffee-shop related scholarly articles I could find, yet nonetheless, I had found enough to grasp a decent understanding of how scholars viewed the world of local cafés and their connection to community identity. Members of my breakout group peer-edited my Feeder for me, and everything seemed pretty clear-cut and straightforward.
Then we were asked to discuss our own subcultures with our groups. Now, I’ve gotten the identity question before. Along with “Two Truths and a Lie”, the question “What makes up your personal identity?” is a staple of college introductory activities, and after that grueling virtual orientation all freshmen had to endure, I’ve had my go-to answers for both practically memorized.
But the idea of my personal “subculture” was new, and honestly, I didn’t really know what to do with it. And what actually made this question so interesting was that I don’t think my group mates really knew either. Each of our answers interpreted the question differently: I talked about my status as a Third Culture Kid, one person talked about his religion, another about her citizenship, and someone discussed his style and identity as “alternative”. It became uniquely clear that our subcultures were not just defined by identifiable categories such as ethnicity or heritage, but rather by the cultural groups that we choose to integrate into our conceptions of ourselves. And despite these differences, we all found ourselves sitting in the same breakout group (affectionately named “The Lucky Charms”), all collectively members of the same ENGL 105 subculture. Funny how things work out like that, right?
By next class we’ll need to have submitted our final draft of Feeder 2.1, and I for one can’t wait to begin Feeder 2.2, where we’ll actually start conducting our observations. I can already see myself using this study as an excuse to down way too much caffeine for the human body to handle, but if the product of that is a phenomenal video presentation on the culture of Carrboro coffee shops, well then, so be it. Here’s to hoping that next week is just as insightful as this last one!
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