Coffeehouses, and more specifically Starbucks, have increasingly become an essential part of many people’s daily life. So I was interested in how the culture within Starbucks is a reflection of natural human interaction. I chose to observe the environment and interaction of people within a suburban neighborhood Starbucks for one hour.
Most ethnography is done using inductive methodology, also known as grounded theory, meaning that the theory will arise out of the collected data. I did not go in to the Starbucks with the mindset of testing a hypothesis. During my research, I utilized full field notes because it is common practice for people to work on their laptops in a coffeehouse. One might even argue that it is unusual to see someone without a tablet or laptop or other electronic device.
The environment of Starbucks is such that it allowed me to utilize full immersion techniques including the research role of a complete participant. By taking on the role of a complete participant I kept my identity covert but I participated fully in what is the normal behavior of visitors of coffeehouses. In this situation I don’t really think there were ethical issues involved in being a complete participant, because I was not in the setting for more than an hour and I did not hold an extensive interviews.
I also think that if I had disclosed my identity of a researcher, then I would be risking the Hawthorne Effect, in that the customers present would act differently than normal because they knew I was observing them. Additionally, often times we conduct informal research, because we analyze our surroundings and those within that surrounding, so it does not raise ethical concerns when I am just conducting formal research within a public place. As far ethical concerns about privacy, I did not record nor hear any conversations that occurred within the setting due to the noise level.
Due to my previous experiences within coffeehouses and Starbucks, I was considered an insider in the setting. I don’t think that this had any implications such as bias because I often did not go to observe what was going on around me but rather just to complete schoolwork.
It was quite easy to remain invisible throughout this experiment because most people don’t socialize in coffeehouses and fortunately I did not meet anyone at Starbucks that I knew. I think because of the setting it really allowed me to be nearly an invisible researcher.
Taken from the data:
I started by research ethnography around 2:00pm. Arriving at the Starbucks on the corner of Warren Parkway and Preston Road, I realized something unusual; the exterior of the Starbucks was joined with a Panda Express and practically shared an outdoor seating area. For me this deteriorated the exclusivity often associated with treating myself to Starbucks. As soon as I walked in I immediately felt very rushed and panicked because of the amount of people in the store and the hurry they all...