Sociology Breaching Experiment Essay

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As an area of sociological study the everyday only emerged relatively recently. It might seem too mundane, too ordinary a field to study, but as Lefebvre commented, the everyday life is the base of everything (Lefebvre Book 1, page 317). The home is often viewed as a central location for the everyday to take place but increasingly other locations such as the “street” and the “pub” are viewed as areas of sociological interest.

As with many concepts, the home, street, pub and the everyday life are especially with regards to repetition routine and habits – contested.

The daily routines of the everyday may hinder us to be critical thinkers or they could be essential for us to feel secure in this fast changing world. The everyday world around us is perceived as natural and normal. A great number of aspects go unquestioned, many things are taken for granted.

Sociologicalers one way to explore these aspects. The task sociologists face is the defamilarization of the everyday, keeping a professional distance from the world around them.

Most techniques used in early sociological study of macrosociological processes ignored fundamental questions such as the taken- for- grantedness of everyday situations and many areas went unexplored and unquestioned. When attempting to tackle such investigations, the researchers faced the problem that they were studying their own society and therefore shared the same basic attitudes and behaviours of the people they were studying.

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The fact that the researcher may not come from the same class may aid defamilarization, but by no means could effectively fully support researchers in their investigations.

Taken For Granted Define

Especially those involved in mass observation as described by Watson (2002) A researcher from another culture would possibly see the researched society in different way but difficulties could arise for example through language and communication. American sociologist Harold Garfinkle (1967) (Chapter 3 page 99) came up with what he saw as a solution to this problem by introducing experiments to reveal the taken for granted ways of living. Garfinkles’ experiments were designed to change the notions of these taken for granted ways. Hamilton, 2002) Although mostly done in the mind, some of these experiments were actually carried out. An example of Garfinkles ” breaching experiments” is to choose a street where there are many people.

Take off a shoe and hold it visibly in your hand and then prominently walk down the street noting the other people’s adverse reaction, which could be anything from ridicule to hostility. This experiment reveals the taken for granted and socially acceptable behaviour of the street and the connected codes of conduct and behaviour. Garfinkel, 1967). (Chapter 2 page 99) Garfinkel believed that through the reactions of the people around the researchers it is possible firstly to see and secondly to understand the taken- for- grantedness of everyday life. With breaching experiments, Garfinkel introduced a tool to reveal the routines and habits at the microsociological level and many unwritten rules of society become apparent. However, his technique, also known as ethnomethodology, is largely dependent on the researchers.

Only the areas they consider as worthy of investigation and potentially revealing such as taken for granted routines or habits will be explored, which makes them prone to overlook many areas in society. Only areas covered by the experiments such as the imaginary walking down the street with the shoes in your hand are revealed by the experiment. Another breaching example Garfinkel used was where students were asked to behave like boarders in their own family homes not only shows how taken for granted appropriate behaviour is, but also how these unwritten rules are nconsciously connected to certain roles. This process of taking up and playing roles is described by Goffman (Hamilton, 2002). Ethnomethodology is a sociological tool that allows the researcher to reveal the taken- for- grantedness in everyday life. It is value free and concerned with the details of human interaction. However, the researchers still have to interpret what they see, and they do this with their own ideas, their own preconceptions, no matter how hard they try to defamilarize with the world around them.

The pub is another area of sociological interest it is a site that is set in a social and historical context traditionally dominated by men. In the late1930’s to the 1950’s Charles Madge and Tom Harris carried out a mass observation study to observe and record the beliefs and thoughts of ordinary working class people. The negative side of this research was that it focused only on men and did not take into account women’s opinions. (Chapter 2, page 194) On the other hand Ann Whitehead (1976) analyses patterns of gender in her ethnographic study of everyday life in a Hertfordshire village.

Whiteheads used both participation and observation in her study and showed that all areas of social life are entwined with what transpires in the pub and the pub plays a key role in reinforcing men’s position of domination and power in relation to women. (Whitehead 1970) and in the process stereotyping patriarchal power relations. The ideas linked with the pub have changed over time. In pre- industrial times the pub was a community-based centre of life that catered mainly male visitors who went there not only to drink and eat but also to find lodgings or work. (Chapter 2, page 190)

Industrialization brought about changes and specialization on all levels. The pubs role was not only a place of male retreat but also a site of consumption and social activity. Inside the pub this specialization is visible in the separation of rooms now allocated a special purpose such as games room, snug, restaurant and public bar. Also, and maybe more profoundly, the entrenchment of gendered roles began to change with the introduction of family pubs and restaurants, eroding the parochial aspect of the pub. The view of the pub, however, is not uncontested but what remains is a sense of belonging, a home from home, and a community.

Never -the- less the Pub has historically been linked with routine, repetition and habit. Lefebvre focuses on the negative aspects of these routines he argues that everyday life as such is dull, repetitive and unexciting, (Book 1, page. 24). There are, however, more positive aspects to the habitual and repetitive life. Felski argues that the routines of the everyday are vital structures in an otherwise chaotic life. Furthermore, the routines of everyday life the very base of our identities, it is the things we do day after day which shape how people see themselves. (Felski Book 1, page 352)

This is a valid opinion since there appears to be more positive aspects to the repetitive everyday life, as Silverstone shows. It is particularly the routines and habits of the everyday that help us to make the harsh world manageable. Through these repetitive actions the world becomes more familiar and predictable, which greatly increases our sense of ontological security (Silverstone Book 1, page 355). The pub becomes a haven where people can retreat. This need for a place of retreat becomes a site of everyday practices and symbols through which people attempt to manage themselves as well as the surrounding world.

The street and the pub can be viewed as social constructs invested with a range of meanings that may differ according to the culture, place and time in which they are made, they are open to debate and in the case of the street as much a state of mind as a physical locale. The imagery of the street has a long history can be explored in it’s representations in literature art and film this helps the distinction between physical location and state of mind. (Chapter 1 page 98). Everyday is personal to the individual and their community and is therefore different in differing circumstances and cultures.

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Sociology Breaching Experiment Essay
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