Ayana’s Human Ethology Assignment

Location: Starbucks, 9:10pm

The service area of the Starbucks in fairly well lit but the sitting areas have more sparse lighting. Students of all types seem to be here, most on computers, some people are in groups and some solitary. It is definitely a college atmosphere, but it is located on campus so that is to be expected. There is soft music playing in the background and most people who are not studying alone are chatting, but it isn’t loud by any means.

Focal Sampling: A young looking guy with very curly hair and a sort of gangly build arrived and got into line with a dark haired hipster looking girl who smiled at him often.  They boy bought a sandwich and a drink (grandehot chocolate), placed them on a table and proceeded to take off the heavy jacket he was wearing. Then he showed the girl who was seated next to him something on the side of his torso that I could not observe from my location. I would have assumed it was a tattoo if he had lifted his shirt a bit, but as very little skin was showing I really do not know what he could have been showing her.  He took out his computer and put it on an adjacent chair and had a large notebook on his lap but opened neither. His sandwich was out of its bag but he never took a bite, just took sips of his drink and spoke quietly to the girl beside him.  While they talked at a close proximity I never saw them actually touch each other. After some time he gets up collects his things, puts back on his jacket and exits with the girl, taking his uneaten sandwich with him.

Scan Sampling: The shape of this location with its pillars and seating arrangement coupled with my location makes it difficult to scan the room without being awkward and drawing attention to myself. Most people here have computers, Ipads or books with them. People at the taller tables study alone, people at the lower tables are alone or in a small group. An employee mops up the store around the people. A group of three people near the windows of the store laugh often. Another group of boys get up to disband while discussing final details of the financial aspect of the project they are working on. A girl in rain boots who had previously been sitting alone on her phone gets up when a girlfriend of hers arrives and they get in line to order drinks.

Analysis: This observation of the Starbucks would suggest that it is not really a place for romantic endeavors, more so a place for studying and spending time with friends. My focal sample displayed the first three stages (1. Attention getting, 2. Recognition, 3. Talk) but even if giving more time I doubt it would have progressed as their interest in each other seemed mostly friendly in my opinion. The girls constant smiling could be seen as flirty but there weren’t many other cues for that other than their proximity, which still could be just a factor of a close, comfortable, friendly, relationship. Friendship was also seen in most of the groups in the scan sample who were in groups.

Author: Johnna Dominguez

Johnna Dominguez earned her BA in Interdisciplinary Studies: Cultural Studies and Body Politics from the University of Alabama's New College in May 2011. In her senior thesis, Johnna explored the embodiment of identity through sexuality and sports by observing and studying Alabama football fans and participants in the local burlesque troupe, the Pink Box Burlesque. In her Master's thesis, she is investigating the psychological and physical stresses associated with southern women who get tattoos. After completing her Master's in Anthropology, she hopes to return to school for a Master's in Public Health.

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