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Purpose: To understand the visible and subtle messages about self, values, and identity that are communicated while consuming. Additionally, at the conclusion of this assignment you ought to understand how social structures, like a mall, shape social behavior and identity.
This is a MANDATORY assignment. Failure to submit the assignment will result in a 100 point deduction of the final grade. If you are uncomfortable visiting a mall due to COVID-19, you can skip the actual physical visits. Instead, you can visit the websites for many of these stores and use that as the observations.
***Your paper should total approximately 4 pages total, typed, double spaced. The paper should be divided into two sections: A) the first is your analysis of your observations (4 of the 6); B) the second section will focus on your answers to the general analysis questions of the sociological significance of shopping.***
Visit any four of the six locations below then answer the summary questions at the end. Your paper should be formatted as an essay, not questions and answers!
Part 1: Observations: Choose 4 of the 6 to Observe and Include in your Paper
Observation Site One: Gaming Store (or similar location)
1. As you walk through the store, note the following:
a. Are the characters in the game mostly male or female?
b. What roles do they assume in the game?
c. What stereotyped role do the characters assume?
Are the customers playing the games predominately male or female?
What messages are communicated and what values are transmitted through these games?
2. Play a game.
a. Describe the males in the game
b. Describe the females in the game
c. What was the object of the game?
Describe the violence in the game.
Observation Site Two: Music Store (or music section in store)
1. How are men and women portrayed on the CD covers? Look at 10-15 of each.
What types of music are men likely to perform? Women?
What values are portrayed and modeled on the CD covers?
Are these significant for adolescent’s or children’s sense of who they want to become?
Observation Site Three: Card or Gift Store (or card section in a store)
1. Look at the two sections: “Birthday Boy” and “Birthday Girl”. Note the colors of each type of card.
2. What roles are assumed in the cards by gender?
3. Describe the difference between male/female birthday cards.
4. Look at the wrapping paper. How does that reflect gender?
Observation Site Four: From the map (directory) compare the number of men’s vs. women’s
stores (those that cater to male and female products).
What is the ratio of stores in the mall?
Is this significant? What does this say about who shops?
Go into some of the stores male stores and then female stores. Who works there? How are they dressed? What’s their demeanor? Etc….
Observation Site Five: Toy-Store (or toy department in a store)
Look at the dolls: Do they appear to be targeted toward boys or girls? How is this done? Are there any gender neutral dolls? What messages are reflected back to a child about what it means to be a girl or a boy in our society
What personality characteristics are promoted by the dolls? by the guns?
Check the packaging—what message does it convey?
3. Describe the color and pictures on the packaging for various toys. What messages are reflected back to a child about what it means to be a girl or a boy in our culture?
4. What social roles are various toys teaching and training children? Give special attention to any messages about the meaning of being a boy or a girl.
Observation Site Six: Food court
Note the number of males/females/minority group members that work the counter at several stores.
Is the manager male? Is the manager female? Is the manager white or an ethnic or racial minority?
What type of working condition is it? What is your impression of the employees? Do they look happy to be working there, stressed, depressed?
Part 2: General Analysis of the Sociological Significance of Shopping
You must address all these questions in your paper. These questions should be addressed in paragraph form after the observation section of the paper.
What gender identity markers were evident at the mall? How is this related to socialization? What agents of socialization exist at the mall/store?
What social class or racial markers were evident at the mall? Of the workers and shoppers? Do stores and products reinforce class and racial differences?
How do American malls or stores influence a shopper’s sense of self and promote cultural values?
Please use one of the three main sociological perspectives (functionalism, conflict theory, or symbolic interactionism) and apply it to your analysis. For example, put on your conflict theory ‘glasses’ and tell me what you noticed and identified in your analysis?