Ckelty blogs at SavageMinds about a short piece in the New Yorker about studying coffee shops like Starbucks anthropologically. The article describes a researcher (an historian) traveling the world to see how people act in Starbucks. His work leads to conclusions like:
… moms predominate [in Starbucks] in late morning, teens take over after 3 p.m., and strangers who are not moms or teens must never engage one another.
My Introduction to Cultural Anthropology students embark on their fifteen minute observations of everyday life this week — and many will end up in coffee shops watching local behaviors. I hope they will look at the article for its descriptions of the historian’s research methods. I hope, too, that they will take Ckelty’s comment to heart that fieldwork usually involves more than simply counting patrons!