Cross-Cultural Studies Freshman Seminar Assignment
Is there such a thing as “dorm culture”? In Coming of Age in New Jersey, Mike Moffat investigates the way that undergraduates at Rutgers University work, live, and play together; the suggestion is that campus society is actually structured in complex ways.
Your job is to study some aspect(s) of dorm life on the Carleton campus, relying on observations and interviews. Your group should choose a clear topic before starting your fieldwork. A recommended process would be as follows:
- Decide on a topic to study (see below)
- Generate ideas for where and how you might best observe the behaviors you are studying
- Have all members of the group participate in “field observations,” taking detailed notes of each session.
- Meet as a group to discuss your observations, trying to deduce some general patterns. (Remember that patterns imply repetition; a single occurrence is not sufficient evidence of a pattern.)
- Follow-up your discussion with some interviews of students about your tentative conclusions. The idea is to see if those you have observed can shed any additional light on your conclusions. (Note, however, that if they disagree with your conclusions, it doesn’t mean your conclusions are wrong: most people do not understand their own tacit rules of social engagement.)
- Prepare a presentation that explains the process you went through (i.e., the steps above), along with your results. (You will have some time in class on Wednesday, October 22 to work on the presentations and consult with us.)
Note: The more focused your presentation is, the better; choose depth over breadth.
Presentations in class on Monday, October 27. Each presentation should last no more than 10 minutes, and each member of the group should participate actively.
Some possible topics (which will need further refinement):
- Friendships vs. romantic relationships
- Organization of personal and/or communal space
- Dynamics of the Carleton classroom
- Carleton humor
- Subtle manifestations of religion in everyday life
- Choose your own! (You’ll have better ideas than we, because we don’t know about student life at Carleton!)