Sunday, 6 March 2011

Assignment 3(C+D+E): Observe & Record.

For this part of the assignment we were asked to go out and observe people in an environment that we were unfamiliar with.

 I chose the Bingo to be my primary site and went along one afternoon with a few girls from my class. Before we could enter the bingo hall we had to sign up at the front desk and become members of ‘Mecca Bingo’. The staff were friendly and carefully explained what needed to be done. We then carried on past the noisy slot machines into the main hall. The first thing that struck me as soon as I opened the heavy door into the hall was the silence! No one was speaking except the bingo caller. We walked past the watchful eyes and up the stairs to get a seat. I felt like a trespasser. From upstairs we had a view of the whole hall and the people playing.

The numbers were being called out by a man who sounded like he was singing them, I’m not sure why this was maybe it gives the players some sort of rhythm when looking for the number called. The current number was also displayed on TV screens which are dotted around the hall for those who can’t hear the caller.

The hall had a very structured layout the tables and chairs were bolted to the floor in rows and had either 2 or four chairs round a table. The hall was also divided into sections by the colour of seat, green, blue or orange. The seat colours made it easier for the caller to direct the employee on the floor towards a potential winner to check their card.

The people playing were mainly over 60 and female although there were a few males there of the same age group. Their clothing was all fairly similar and nothing radical; plain colours, cardigans, blouses, and skirts or trousers. Most people that afternoon were sitting on their own or in pairs. The pairs would sit across the table from each other with their bags and jackets on the spare seat next to them. No one spoke until someone shouted “HOUSE!” then there was a buzz of chatting and I noticed that they spoke to people at the next table not just who they were with. It made the place feel a little friendlier until the numbers started getting called again and the silence returned. Some players used a hand held computer device instead of using the traditional cards and a pen.

The Bingo did make me feel like an outsider, walking in and leaving were awkward experiences where I just wanted to quickly sit down or get out. After a little while I became relaxed and joined in one of the games you could play on the table. Sadly I didn’t win anything. I found it stressful, panic filled me as the number was shouted out and I searched for it on my board. It seemed like the caller spoke quicker when I decided to play. The one thing I did find quite sad was that when someone won there was no round of applause or mini celebration the game just started again.

What I found links with Pierre Bourdieu’s theory that people do not go certain places as they are unsure how to act and feel uncomfortable. He also mentions that people have a preconception of what a place will be like, this may be in some cases a stereotypical view.  I did think that the Bingo would be filled with pensioners however I thought it would be a little livelier and a lot noisier.

My secondary site was the bus on my journey home. Everyone usually queues slightly back from the sign in a straight line next to each other. As more people join they usually go to side of the sign that has more people on it and join, or ask if it’s the back of the queue to be polite. Once the bus arrives it’s an unspoken rule that you wait for others to get off the bus before you get on and you let the people go on in the order of who was waiting at the bus stop first. When on the bus the teenagers and school kids usually go upstairs. Everyone takes a seat trying not to sit next to anyone unless completely necessary. When someone gets a double seat they either sit at the aisle seat leaving the window seat blocked off for anyone else or sit at the window and put all their belongings on the aisle seat to keep others away. Only when the bus is full do people grudgingly move towards the window or shift their coat.

In my observations one of the main things I found was that territory is a key theme and people mark their territory with their belongings. People like to be at least a seats distance apart from others I could see this in the Bingo and on the bus. Thinking about it now every time I go to the cinema I claim the seat next to me with my bag and the films I don’t enjoy are always the times when I’m sitting uncomfortably in a busy screen with a stranger next to me. Maybe not having the comfort of enough personal space ruins certain experiences. People who ride the bus regularly seem to have a preferred seat I always see a familiar face in the same area on the bus. You can see this in our Design Studies lecture every week, all the jewellers sit together in the same section, as do textiles, graphics, interiors and the product design students get moved to the front row. People don’t like change and feeling uncomfortable. I don’t know for sure but I would guess that in the Bingo hall all the regulars probably sit in the same seats every time they go.

I found this assignment a little tricky trying to identify which observations were important and what greater meaning they had. Hopefully with time my snooping will improve and give me a better insight into people’s lives.

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