Under the Mind’s Eye
On the surface, sociology is the study of society and human behavior; yet
looking deeper, it is the study of humans in groups and how they interact with
one another. Sociologists look at these groups by means of the sociological perspective. This involves looking at a certain behavior like it has never been looked at it before. When done right one can come to a deeper level of understanding about behavior.
Using your sociological imagination you are able conceptualize how a persons macro level, which consists of the larger aspects of life such as family and government, and their micro level, (which is the individual itself) combine in order form the person they are. Using my sociological imagination I decided to observe the library through the use of symbolic interactionism, one of four sociological perspectives. The others included are the conflict theory, ethno methodology, feminism and structural functionalist.
Symbolic interactionism tends to observe things by paying full attention to the micro level of sociology. Instead of focusing on broader aspects you look at things depending upon the individual and their interactions in society. Through the use of symbols we are able to assign meaning to people and things and then develop our own interpretations of those symbols.
The library, like many symbols signifies silence, thought and work. You would not walk into a library expecting to be served drinks, and to see people dancing on bookshelves. The library evokes an image of peacefulness, in which people are diligently working; yet a closer examination reveals the not so serene value of a library visit.
The Saint Michaels Library is not a mystery; it is like every other library in which I have even been. There are lots of books, computers and places for people to do work. There are round tables, square tables, rectangular tables, titled tables and flat tables. There are cubicles and small individual rooms known as masturbation closets. The layout of the library is pretty standard and doesnt need much explaining. There are three floors. The basement had one small room of books and the rest is study areas. The first floor is a mix of computer labs, books, magazines and more study areas. The third floor is mostly books and of course more places to study.
Leah and I walked through the library doors, shortly after nine. We trudged up the stair anticipating the extreme pleasures of homework. We chose a small square table on the first floor. To our left was a table of four girls, to our right was two guys and next to them was two small individual cubicles occupied by a male and a female.
Leah and I began to unload our work; as she tries to get work done I began my observations. Each one of the four girls is diligently working almost as if the others do not exist. The two boys appear far from humorless as they read through magazines, laughing and making jokes about who is going to win the super bowl. My attention then drifts back to the girls on my left whom appear rejuvenated. As they get ready to leave they are filled with excitement about the nights basketball game and the hottest players. Looking beyond the girls I notice some other tables in the distance occupied by a group of Korean guys who appear to be isolated from the library. They are tucked into the back of the room almost hidden. Glancing around, I now notice that all the people within site are Caucasian except for the Koreans and an African-American girl who is sitting alone in the cubicle. As I watch her I notice that every time she highlights something she will stop, stare off into the distance as if she is almost allowing the information to be properly stored. Leah interrupts my thoughts. She asks me the time. I tell her to buy a watch, expecting her to go back to work. She then demands me to listen to her paper. She reads me the paper and we begin to go off on extreme tangents of her observations (she is doing the same paper). While laughing hysterically we realize where we are. Back to oberservation. The two boys to the left have left now and a guy and a girl now occupy the table. They are doing a project and both appear uneasy. She gives him a look as he is spouting out information, like one of those this-sucks-that-my-teacher-picked-the-partners type of looks. As he talks about economic theory she stares at him and all of the sudden blurts out, Thats so wrong, do you even know what you are talking about? The boy stutters to recover, but is pushed down before he can refute her comments.How about you sit there and look pretty and Ill do the project. I cant afford to fuck up. With that she got up and stormed out of the library. He sat there for moment shocked with disbelief, then looked over at me and said,Somebody obviously PMSing, then he packed up his things and left. Leah interrupts my thought. She asks if we are going to the game; I tell her we are, expecting her to go back to work. She then reads me her paper, which now consists of ten lines instead of seven. Back to observation. We are now the only people left except for the boy sitting all alone. TAP TAP TAP TAP. The constant beating of his pencil creates the rhythm of music which pounds in my head. Leah interrupts my thoughts. She tells me its time to go.
Through symbolic interactionism I began to look at not only what people were doing, but also what they were doing meant. I noticed the social distance between different races. People of the same general ethnicities generally associate together, which is something that I have noticed around campus, especially in the cafeteria. Much like specific races are working, grouped together, so are men and women. Through my observations I noticed that many people of the same sex were at the library together. Almost hinting that people of the same sex work better together. Of all the people I saw I only saw one guy and girl working together.
Out of all the conversations I heard that day the one that struck me the most was the comment made by the guy in relation to the girl PMSing. I feel that many guys make PMS an excuse or a way out of dealing with women. When a girl is upset or bitchy men automatically assume that it is because of PMS. Although a woman may be more sensitive during her period, it does not last her whole life and she still has control of her emotions.
In general people often do many things unconsciously that they use to help them study. The studying habits I observed varied from on person to the next. I saw that many people use different methods in order to achieve ideal studying. Venturing around the library, it is easy to notice how people need different things, and require alternate ways of studying. You notice peoples emotions and how they react to their surroundings. Some people need silence, some need music, some need space, some need distraction and some people just do it to look good.
When a sociologist studies behavior their concentration is based upon
the interaction the individual itself and how they interact within their surroundings. Through symbolic interactionalism you look at things and what they mean, and then determine the effects they have. There are many hand signs, both good and bad, that people exchange, as well as facial expressions in reaction to an event or statement that a symbolic interactionalist would look at. My observation period in the library allowed me to glimpse into the life of a sociologist. I realized that you could learn a lot about someone by just watching him or her. Their behavior is highly representative of the person they are; yet one cannot assume what specific reactions imply. Through the use of your sociological imagination you are able to gain a deeper understanding of behavior and how behavior is influenced by society.