Good Essay About Public Observation
There are places where people commute or come to that they enjoy because the surrounding of that particular place is familiar to them and it is a place they enjoy being in as well as being a part of the setting, just the aroma of different foods and lines of people alone is more than enough to get the feeling of never wanting to leave that particular place; my public observation takes place at the Southlake Mall. I chose this particular setting because there’s so much to see and so many people that walk around or around in the same spot for 10 minutes or more, the mall is one of the busiest places in the entire city. I have been a patron of this mall since I was a child and it is a place where things undoubtedly happen whether it is a girl hanging out with her friends, a guy hanging out with his girl, a family of 4 trying to decide what to eat at the food court or even some little kid crying because their toy fell out of their stroller. It is a cacophonous environment where a person, an observer, can see all kinds of things and can be able to tell a great many things about a person’s life just based on that observation. Ironically, the Southlake Mall is inundated by people daily and that is why I chose that particular setting. Another reason why I chose the Southlake Mall is because there is so much going on in the environment that it is hard to not pay attention to it all, I cannot remember if there was ever a time where the mall was not so cluttered with people; there is just so much to observe at the mall. As Sampson and Raudenbush (1999) point out “non-social interaction in a public place is necessary for people to understand observational studies and methods” (p.604). As previously stated, the mall is full of different people living different lives but it is a place that a person can sit quietly and observe everyone in that particular environment. Plus, despite the hustle and bustle of the people inside the mall, I love being surrounded by all of the different noises as well as monitoring the different things going on inside of the current environment.
As a choice to conduct my public observation in the Southlake Mall, there are more than a few biases that I, the researcher, could bring into the observation. One of the biases could be that I could just monitor or observe only people who are holding Game Stop bags from the store which could imply that they bought a game or gaming merchandise of some sort. Another bias I could bring into the observation is the choice to monitor only Dads with Game Stop bags which will come off to me that even though this one guy is a Dad, he still plays video games either with his children or his son or he plays them by himself because he is just on the level that his kids cannot hang with on video gaming. If I wanted to really bring a bias into the observation then I could only monitor and observe how many video game couples there are that come out of the store instead of just children or teens, couples between the age of 23-36. This particular bias would give me some insight into just how many couples actually play video games and just concentrate on that, it would speak volumes about their relationship. The idea that “people or similar people can be observed doing the same things or going into the same store over and over again would imply that they have a pattern” (Cooke, 2012, pg.1). The final bias that I would bring into the observation is how many times a couple go into the in mall Game Stop a day, concentrating on just that bias alone would tell me that I need to pay really close attention to be able to count just how many couples actually go into the Game Stop store. Interesting enough, a particular bias such as how many people actually have gone to Game Stop within the last hour might be another bias I would bring into the observation. Bringing biases into an observation can really mess with the data especially if that person is not concentrating on a whole population, just certain groups within certain areas. Popova noted that “crucial observation is the key to learning, careful observation must not have any biases in order to collectively observe what is going on in the environment” (p.1).
The place in which I now sit is inside of the main lobby area of the mall which is located on the inside of the mall that is surrounded by stores, it is the main area where people come in from the outside and are immediately greeted by a Foot Locker shoe store. The size of the setting is very large where hanging Christmas decorations are still evident and there is a wide open space where there is usually a car that is taking up a space for contest purposes, there is a car on the other end of the mall as well that is there for the same purpose. Coincidentally, there are also three potted plants with a trash can on both sides of that plants which suggests that there is always a trash can nearby so people can throw their garbage away from the nearby Subway restaurant. As Carlson and Morrison (2009) points out “Observational studies can reveal certain things about people in certain environments that regular watching would not be able to” (p.76). The context of the mall is a Subway restaurant, a convenience store, a couple of benches for sitting and a couple of glass displays. There are all kinds of people that are occupying this one space such as families of 4 and 6, a couple getting ready to go back to school with their different bags of clothes from stores such as Skechers, Hot Topic, Abercrombie and Fitch as well as Gap. There is an elderly lady waiting on her daughter to pull the car up so she can get in it and they can leave, there is also a man on the phone with someone important. There are small children walking out of the convenience store with candies such as Skittles, peanut butter crackers, nerds ropes and a couple of bottles of soda. The convenience store is also inside the mall just near the other entrance of the store, this entrance is where a lot of people come in as well as leave. Commonly, there are people who come into this entrance because the convenience store in the mall which was not there recently and it can be argued that is the only reason why people like the ones with children for example only come in the mall through that entrance. Once upon a time, teens used to frequent that store when it first opened, oddly the store has no name.
I feel that I can manage my biases by not concentrating on one specific group or targeted group of people but by concentrating on all kinds especially since there are more than just those targeted set of people that go into the store. For example, there are people that work in the store that also buy things from there such as video games, noise cancelling headphones, headsets, controllers etc. So far I have just been concentrating on people who go in there like couples, teens, single people, parents and those who seemingly frequent the store in the amount of time that I have been sitting here. Another way that I can manage the biases is by also focusing on a specific age group and ask questions like, “why is a 36-year-old man going into the store to buy a headset, why is his bag bigger than it appears if he was just going into the store to just buy a headset?” Managing my biases by asking certain questions can help me find a middle ground as far as coming up with answers to those questions, figuring out and assuming why a 36-year-old man would go into a video game store to buy certain video game collectibles especially since hearing the guy tell his wife that playing video game can be a waste of time. So the question here could be asked, why does the man say that then turn right around and buy a headset for a PS3; the answer here can be explained as he is just keeping up a clever ruse in order to fool his wife. I could also manage the biases by wondering, and assume that the only reason why the teens go into the Game Stop is to get ideas about what games they want for Christmas since most of the time I usually see them walk out of the store with nothing. Another way I could go about managing my biases is centering on a specific reason or reasons why the targeted group or why the certain groups of people are going into the store to begin with even though I cannot interfere in the observation, it is more than enough to assume reasons why they are going into the store. It can be argued that the only reason why a video game couple are going into Game Stop is to buy gifts for the other person and not for each other.
That is not all, managing my biases for the study is completely a mandatory thing that must be done in order to get the right amount of data. Another example of this is the couple who went into the store to buy some video games or video game equipment, it could be said that they are getting it for a relative who wants the experience of playing games that require a headset as well as points on their online card in order to log in on their account on the system; it is technically a requirement if they want access to the online privileges that every other X-Box owner enjoys. Another way I can manage my biases is by making sure that the things that I do not like or certain elements about the environment is not clouding my judgment to the point that some of the data I have come off a little inconsistent or scant, any bias I have about whatever it is has to be contained lest it jeopardize my job as a researcher. For example, I have an ex-girlfriend that has a reindeer shirt exactly like a girl I am researching as part of my public observation, I choose not to pay that girl any special albeit required attention because she is wearing a shirt that reminds me of my ex who and which should not have anything to do with the study. It is just enough to just be able to recognize what my biases are, it is not to be a factor in whatever is being recorded. Coincidentally, another way of managing my biases is by keeping an open mind about things in the environment including the people that are in it. Open-mindedness is one of the main ingredients in conducting an accurate public observation, choosing what to record and what to give a good mass majority of your attention to is not an option. Managing a bias especially in my case has to come from the fact that everything in the environment has value or even its own story to tell, a public observer just has to pay attention to what everything in the environment is trying to tell him or her. Ironically, it is not that things can talk, it is more than the observer observes things in the immediate environment in order to be able to draw a picture of what public in which they are observing.
My role as the researcher is to see and monitor everything that goes on around me whether it is people getting hostile, a store manager yelling at someone on the phone, a girl saying sweet nothings to her boyfriend over the phone even a child throwing a tantrum about not being able to go where they want to go. Furthermore, my role as a researcher is to blend in with the environment and make sure that I record certain things about the environment while paying very close attention to detail. Details such as the amount of people that go into a store or how many people go into a store within an hour’s time or even how many of those same people go back and forth into that same store, part of my role as a researcher is to make sure that nothing I do will interfere with what is going on in the environment. For example, if I was standing at the door of the Game Stop and two couples came up to the door. I immediately stop the couples and tell them as well as convince them that they are better off going to Disk Replay or Amazon.com to get their games because Game Stop is the crappiest store for all video game needs, my direct interference in the public observation would be a direct violation of observation because it would cause the data that I am recording to be tampered with. It could cause some inconsistencies with the data as well, some things might come off as wrong or accidentally recorded which would imply that I was not paying any attention whatsoever. My role as the researcher is to merely observe and record things as they happen or how they have happened over a period of time, this is a study that requires me to fully pay attention to everything around me. Interfering or even talking to anyone during the observation would mess it up as well, the accuracy as well as my job as the researcher is absolute. Overall, my role as the researcher is to be as precise as possible with the information in which I gather; it is something that I cannot afford to take lightly because there are people who depend on this data or the things that were compiled in it. My role as a researcher in this setting is merely an observer of people and nothing more.
In summary, the public observation study I did took place at the mall because it is one of the busiest places in the entire area. It is a place that I thought was ideal because I was likely to observe many things such as different things in the environment, and it is the different things in the environment that makes the public observation worthwhile. For example, if a person was standing against a water fountain for 15 minutes before actually moving then another person comes along and does the same thing. It can be said that the observer will develop questions as far as what is so interesting about the water fountain and the observer would feel entitled to the fact that they deserve to know exactly what’s so interesting about that particular water fountain. Managing bias is another thing that an observer has to do in order to properly do a public observation. For example, a person does not like something about an environment whether it is the retail store manager’s tie or the pretzel stand attendant’s hat design. No matter what, keeping a bias in check in one of the most successful ways of doing a public observation, a person can also learn a great many thing about a person through public observation as well as the environment around them. An example of this is when a girl is on the phone arguing with her boyfriend about how he never says that he loves her enough or even how often he says it, the girl is hollering so loud that I cannot help but to hear her and her conversation. She hangs up after 20 minutes then calls him right back to start yelling and screaming at him again about the same stuff, it would appear to the naked eye that the girl is miserable in a relationship that she does not seem like she is a valued part of. Coincidentally, everything in the environment is instrumental in helping the researcher define his role. The main rule of observing is to take note of everything going on around them. The reason for this is to imply that everything in the environment has value even the trash cans by the door to the Gap store or the many times that a single man ventures into his favorite store. Everything has a story to tell.
Cooke, E. (2012, January 12). The importance of observation. Retrieved December 31, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/15/pay-attention-people-faces
Popova, M. (1998, January 1). The Art of Observation and How to Master the Crucial Difference between Observation and Intuition. Retrieved December 31, 2014, from http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/03/29/the-art-of-observation/
Carlson, M., & Morrison, R. (2009). Study Design, Precision, and Validity in Observational Studies. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 12(1), 77-77.
Sampson, R., & Raudenbush, S. (1999). Systematic Social Observation of Public Spaces: A New Look at Disorder in Urban Neighborhoods. Chicago Journals, 105(3), 604-604.
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