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The place I chose was one of the cafes situated in the city center. It is situated near Opera House. The café belongs to one of the famous café-chains in the country. It is located on the first floor of the old three-story building. The history of the place supports the idea of the café. The concept of the café comes from Europe. Calm colors and specific combination of materials create a feeling of presence. The main emphasis is put on natural materials. Owners of the café prefer wooden interior elements. In addition, beautiful music plays in the cafe and creates a feeling of satisfaction for the visitor.
There are three halls in the café. The biggest one is in the front part of the café. Here baristas take orders and serve customers drinks and snacks. The next two halls are smaller. The middle hall has a big window, which creates a feeling of great space. The last hall is narrow and the atmosphere there reminds of a dorm: many people, much noise, but friendly talks about everything. In the cafe tables are mostly arranged for couples. Few of them are for bigger groups.
Comfortable chairs make visitors feel relaxed and safe. One interesting detail is the king size armchair right behind the counter desk. The round shape of the table creates the circle of trust between two. It is very bright in the café during the day time. In the evening the light is mostly timid. As it was mentioned above, there are two big windows in the café. They create a feeling of space and prosperity. Usually people try to get closer to them. Interesting observation is that if people get a place near the window, they often observe people outside. The design creates and supports comfort and can be considered cozy.
The place is very crowded during rush hours. People are coming in and out. Some are ordering snacks with coffee, other prefer tea and a piece of cake. It is hard to distinguish the average age group. People, who have chosen this place are young, full of energy, stylish, and can sometimes act as if they are boasting their wealth status. Those who plan to stay for a longer time, order coffee late or vanilla carmelata and choose a calm place in the centre of the café. Usually they try to sit closer to the outlet in order to charge their laptops.
Among visitors there are many students. Here they spent their free time between lectures. Many students bring books with them so that they could study and prepare for classes. Few students join one big group in the middle hall of the café. Their friends met them with loud shouts and exciting faces. The couple near the window in the first hall became irritated because of this kind of behavior and a woman whispered something to her partner. However, the neighbors heard her and leaned back. The group of young people in the middle hall continued to act noisily. The group consisted of six people: three guys and three girls. The average age was around 19 – 21 years. Guys set on the left side of the table, and girls set on the right side. One of the guys started to talk very emotionally about the economy class. People avoided listening carefully because the speaker was exaggerating. He used unnatural gesture, was waving with hand to mach. It seemed like he tried to kill annoying flies.
On the opposite side of this group, there was a couple: a woman and a man. They were talking very loud about business and discussed some issue about bills and banking accounts. The couple chose a place situated in the corner of café’s middle hall. There is a half round shape coach in the first cafe hall. The group of five people enteredthe café and set there. From the conversation, I assumed that they were from Germany. A man, probably a group leader, asked everyone about what others wanted to order and went to the counter to order everything according to the wish list. Suddenly the youngest group member decided to change his order: instead of coffee, he preferred tea with chamomile. The group leader started to murmur something and rejected the request, assuring that the cashier already gave the bill. The young man tried to convince him in a low voice that if there was a need he could give money, but he wanted to have tea with chamomile. The man lost his temper, came back to the table and threw the wallet on the chair. The woman, maybe his wife, tried to arrange the situation and with calm low voice asked everyone to wait few minutes until she finished the order. The youngest and the man took sits opposite to each other. Their hands were crossed on the breasts. During all scene baristas were silently observing. One of them tried to say something, but the host of the café pressed her finger to the lips to make him shut up. Then she turned to the stuff and with a slight handshake made them return to their duties.
In a café, I had an opportunity to observe members of primary and secondary groups (Macionis 2011). From the situation when the guy tried to express his thoughts about the economy class, it became obvious that this group was secondary. The main question of formation such kind of group: “What is the goal?”. The situation with the tea near the counter was an evidence of the primary group, which was personally oriented. People in the primary group are bounded emotionally and express loyalty. The same loyalty people showed respecting each other while discussing bank accounts.
In sociology, there are three main perspectives or paradigms (Kessel n.d.). These perspectives developed gradually. From Durkheim's ideas appeared Structural Functionalism. The second perspective Symbolic Interactionism originated from Weber’s theories and was derived from ideas of Goffiman, Mead, and Blumer. Later in sociology appeared another perspective Conflict Theory, which is divided into Critical Conflict Theory, also known as Marxian, and Weberian Conflict Theory. The Weberian conflict theory is also known as Formal (Kessel n.d.). All these theories follow from Ritzer’s Social Facts Paradigm.
Structural functionalism is characterized by stability and is often synergetic. The café can be perceived as stable synergetic structure. However, it is the substructure at the same time. The structure can be defined by space or roles. In this case, the café has both elements. The stuff is organized in a form of a pyramid. This allows to control the action and person. The place defines a target group and the way the members interact.
Visitors, customers, and stuff create interrelated and often interdependent parts. A good example is when a woman tried to express her irritation and the couple sitting by the near table leaned back in the chair. In general, the society is stable and objective. Each member of the group has his own functions. Moreover, each present group has its values. The values are not obvious, but the way people took sits and chose the place showed their value at that particular moment. As it was mentioned above, the group is structured and has fixed roles. For example, the host of the café, the student, which came back from the economy class, and the leader of the German group. Each of them had particular responsibilities. Student supposed to succeed in the economy class, the host of the café was doing her best to protect visitor from unpleasant experience, otherwise they would never come back. The host also tried to keep the group leader calm, who needed to stay confidant. These all events could be perceived as dysfunctions in the functional society.
In all actions of visitors there is a lot from symbolic interactionism. According to Ritzer, there are two paradigms: social definition paradigm and social behavior paradigm (Ritzer 1980). Micro level analysis is common for the symbolic interactionism (Ritzer & Smart 2001). The couple sitting in the middle hall can be perceived as the subgroup of the group, lets call it “Middle Hall Group”.
The behavior of the youth irritated them, but they were concentrated on discussing bank account issue. Woman’s face expressed disappointment and despair. She tried to control herself and not to burst into tears. The man, sitting opposite to her kept silence. His hand was near the mouth, the forehead was covered with wrinkles. He was thinking about something. Somehow, their mood influenced the atmosphere in the middle hall. The sense of uncertainty transformed into the unseen force. Youth was silent after they made their friend shut up. The reality became visible and changed. The main factor that allowed to understand people in this case was not even language, but their face expressions and body language. As a result, this can cause ignorance of the structure. However, material differences are not seen and often are omitted.
The groups react to symbols immediately. People know six basic emotions apriori and are able to identify them (Hung & Kim 1996). This does not mean that we are ruled by emotions totally. But the differentiation of feeling of disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, anger, or surprise helps us identify dangerous situations and, if it is possible, take certain measures. Nevertheless, people like to observe and rarely get involved in the situation, which can harm them. Conflicts arise from the interference of interests and are the evidence of dominance and power. The host of the café showed her dominance and status twice. First time was when she made members of her team keep silence with the finger pressed to her lips showed. The second time I witnessed was when she made them get back to their duties. There can be different conditions that can cause the conflict. However, often people need a particular place so that they can show their dominance.
The situation near the counter is a good example. On one hand, the group leader had a chance to manage everything on the spot or during the process of making an order. However, he has chosen to show his dominance. This fact also gave the ground to claim that conflict is a consciousness act and is often based on material conditions (Kessel n. d.). Often it defines a social position. In this case, conflict was temporal as both its participants belonged to the primary group.
In edition, it is hard to analyze conflicts as a big part of them is hidden and often can be shown with an almost unseen body language or specific emotion. Moreover, the language of speakers can identify the conflict.
Observation requires time and concentration. In order to analyze the result correctly, it is better to use all possible tools to get a comprehensive picture and a clear perspective. If to reject one of the paradigms, to me this means to reject the present situation or the presence at all. The right approach is the combination of all three perspectives in the analysis. It will help see the situation as a whole. The processes are not taken out of the context, so it helps to create unity and observe the synergy.
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