Breaking Societal Norms: The quintessential sociology assignment. Help!
January 24, 2013 9:01 PM Subscribe
I am taking a very new, unique class this semester at my university, which has a final project related to "breaking social norms." The teacher implied the project should most likely have some videotaping or physical results, and manipulate social norms for a better/more positive outcome. Sky is the limit on this project, there are very few guidelines and boundaries, and I'm not sure where to go with it. Suggestions?
posted by unmouton88 to society & culture (29 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
So, this class is, humorously enough, not a sociology class. Most of us know very little about social norms and their implications, beyond the things we don't think about. (I eat with a fork, I don't walk around pants-less in public, etc.) I believe the key here is a "positive outcome" or "doing good" when breaking these norms. As a side note, this is a group project. So we have a bit of manpower. We can also involve family and friends. Some of my ideas include:
1) Possibly getting in touch with a nursing home, interviewing some lonely/older inhabitants, and posting Bios about them around campus. With pre-addressed, stamped envelopes with anonymous notecards and a prompt to write a kind/conversational note or a thank you. (These would be screened by me/my group, not sent straight to the recipient. Similar premise to the Secret Book.) This would break the societal norm we have of not valuing our elderly in Western culture. (Read a NY Times article about this.) These would be provided to the resident after screening, at the end of the project.
2) Going to an airport an encouraging weary travelers to clear the snow off of other people's cars, or a whole parking lot, etc. I feel it would be breaking a societal norm to really ask anyone to do anything selfless, especially without an already existing relationship. (I have ready studies that show that human beings value and/or are more comfortable with selfishness than selflessness.) Problem is, this is weather dependent, and it's been a dry winter.
These are just a few I thought of, and I worry about the red tape associated to #1 and #2. (Getting a foot in the door at a nursing home, the right to release a brief bio on a poster, etc. Standing around at an airport? Super questionable these days.)
Can you guys think of anything that could work for the basic premise? Feel free to ignore mine and go totally off the wall-- I have a tendency to think "inside the box" a lot. I like boundaries, and this project has very few. Thanks for any help you can offer!