Friday, January 21, 2011

Ethnography Ideas

Evin Schuchardt -
Stuart Jones -

These are some ideas for the ethnography project:

1.)  Walmart late at night - In my creative writing class last semester we got on the topic of strange people you see at Walmart between 12am and 5am. My professor spoke of a time when he ended up following around a rather large lady being supported by two kids, one on either side. Alternately the children would go and pick up an item for the woman. As one child ran to snatch up an item, the woman would begin to topple over. Then the child would race back and catch her before she fell over. My professor couldn’t help but observe the strange family. Needless to say, the discussion strayed away from the narrative style of some poem we were assigned to read to all the strange people my classmates have seen at Walmart. Interestingly enough, there is a website dedicated to the topic that I never knew about: . So perhaps we could study people at Walmart late at night.

2.) People at the dog park – Back when I lived with my sister, we would often take her dogs (one of which is posing with me in my profile picture – his name is Skipper) to the dog park. There I would often see people who treated their dogs as their children. They would proudly showcase their pets and share stories of their dog’s biggest blunders. While I mostly just saw dogs in fancy collars, I believe I did spot a few over the months wearing sweaters or some kind of Halloween costume during October. Perhaps we could watch how they interact and see what patterns emerge.

3.) We could also do some people watching at just about any place in town: different fast food places, bars, coffee shops, grocery stores or the mall. Depending on the place and the time of day, we might pick up on some interesting patterns in the people. At some stores we could see how many people use checks vs. debit cards or how many use coupons or the shopping ad. At the mall we could see how many people are shopping for clothes vs. entertainment vs. other.

4.) Branching off on the Walmart idea, we could also compare the people that go to different places: like Walmart vs. Target or Kroger vs. HEB.

Two other ideas I have would be to either sit along different roads and see how many people are texting, talking on cell phone, eating, smoking, etc. while driving. The other idea would be to have two team members walking along on campus. One drops something. A third team member would see if anyone picks up what the person dropped and if they make any effort to get it back to the person who dropped it.

A person spotted at Walmart in costume


  1. I must say that your second idea interests me the most as my own grandmother treats her dogs with more care than any other family member. I would be interested to see how many of these people have actually had children, and whether the behavior has always been present or developed in response to an empty nest.

  2. Wal-Mart seems like a perfect place for people-watching. You have enough interesting interactions during the day, so I can only imagine what it must be like around 3 or 4am.

  3. The Wal-Mart idea is interesting, but I don't think I would like losing hours of sleep to observe night owls. I think I'd need a lot of coffee to stay up.

  4. LOL. These are *good* ideas. Find people to bandwagon on these ideas with you. Flesh them out.