General Anthropology Ethnographic Project


This cultural anthropological research serves to critically undertake an analysis of a sampling of life in America. It makes observations about a variety of different aspects of American culture, with a focus on technological dependence in the American populace, while analyzing the meaning behind this dependency. It discusses the observations made at a specific field site, Denny's, and discuss the physical setting, the background, the manners of dress, and body language of the individuals present, along with the technological dependence of those observed. Denny's was chosen as the location for this project due to the fact that people from all walks of life and all income ranges frequent the establishment.


The field site chosen for the completion of this project was Denny's. Observations were made at approximately 11:30pm on 12/5/2014. Denny's was chosen as the ideal location due to the fact that it hosts individuals from all income ranges and all walks of life, making it one of the few places that will serve to provide an accurate sampling of the total population in the area. Additional reasons for the selection of Denny's on the part of the researcher included a desire for French fries smothered in cheese and a limited availability of open locations serving this food at this time of night.

Presentation of Data

The observation point selected was the back corner of the smoking section of Denny's. This ensured that the researcher had a full view of the smoking area, and that all actions and activities could be seen without a blind spot, thus ensuring that the researcher had a full field of vision in order to be able to work to carry out their observations for the purposes of this study. The first person observed was the night manager at Denny's. She was short, about 5'2' and of African American descent. The first thing noticed about her was her winning smile. Though it was easy to see that she did get flustered, she always had a true smile on her face. She was wearing the Denny's uniform, consisting of a white button down shirt and black slacks.

At the table to the left was a homeless man, an observation that may be deemed accurate due to his continued presence on the same corner daily. He was sitting, hunched over the table with a cup of coffee between his hands. He looked as though he had not showered in several days; his clothes were well worn, patched, and dirty. His shoes had several holes that had been patched over with duct tape. His height could not be determined based on how he was sitting.

At the table on the right side of the researcher there were three students with textbooks open in front of them. The power cords for their laptops were stretched across the walkway. There were also two tablets turned on sitting on the table and three smart phones sitting on the table as well. All three individuals, all males, were wearing dark blue jeans. They were wearing sneakers of varying ages, some looked new, others not so much. It was clear that they were worn for comfort rather than fashion. All three were wearing t-shirts; the first wore a Metallica shirt, the second an AC/DC shirt, and the third wore an Aerosmith shirt.

On the other side of the homeless man was a middle aged man. He was wearing brown crocs with socks, blue jeaned hemmed shorts and a white polo shirt that was tucked in. He wore a blue baseball cap with the Miami Dolphins logo. He had a smart phone on the table next to him.

The table on the other side of the students contained a man and a woman who appeared to be in their late twenties or early thirties, both wearing cowboy boots, and Wrangler jeans. The man was wearing a t-shirt with the words "Sarcasm: a service I provide" on it. The woman was wearing a black tank top with random silver swirls printed on it and a black hoodie.

The night manager was serving the tables in the area in which the researcher was sitting. She looked a little stressed, but completed all of her tasks without falter, always with that same winning smile. The middle aged gentleman was ignoring the world around him, concentrating on eating his Grand Slam while scrolling through something on his smart phone intently, only interrupting his reading, but never looking away from his screen, to request more coffee.

The night manager came over frequently to check on the homeless man, to see if he needed anything. She was very polite to him, trying to coax him to order food, but he stated that he did not earn enough while begging to afford more than the cup of coffee. She came over to ask if I needed anything, wherein I requested an additional Dr. Pepper and more French fries. She went to the table with the students next, wherein one held up a finger before she could say anything to them as they all continued to type frantically, afterwards all parties requested more refills on their coffee and a large plate of fries to share.

As she went over to her final table, the table with the couple who were holding hands across the table while smoking, they called her closer. Their heads got real close together and after whispering together, the night manager smiled and left to put in their order, returning with Dr. Pepper refills; as she brought them their sodas, the man pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and started talking animatedly to someone on the other end of the line. Approximately 15 minutes later the night manager brought a bagel, an order of French fries, and a side of gravy to their table. The night manager then delivered a roast beef meal to the homeless man and told him to eat, explaining that another patron had bought it for him.

The students were still working when the researcher decided to leave; the couple left approximately fifteen minutes before the researcher left, the middle aged man left approximately twenty minutes after the couple got their food, and the homeless man left after he finished eating, leaving the price of the coffee with what looked to be a forty cent tip on the table for the night manager.

Analysis and Discussion

The definition of culture is the ideas and behaviors that are learned and transmitted within a given society. Cultural anthropologists study the subfield of anthropology. This field focuses on human cultural behaviors, cultural systems, the variations present in cultural experiences among different human groups, as well as the "how" and "why" cultural systems differ among human societies.

The feeling of entitlement was indicated through the actions of the students' table, in particular when they expected the night manager to stop doing her job, implying their work was more important. While on one hand, when writing, if a person has a set train of thought and get interrupted, they may forget where they were trying to go with the paper, on the other hand, within American society, the sense of entitlement is strong, especially when interacting with persons in the service industries. It is perceived that persons working in the service industry are there to cater to the customer's every desire, instead of being treated with respect. This is a typical behavior of individuals in American culture. Every person is told that they are the best, better than everyone else, and they end up believing it, regardless of the validity of the concept.

As a counterpoint to this negative aspect of American culture comes the feel of community, a concept discussed by Spindler and Spindler in 1983. The concept of community as reliant on the larger system and the concept of the community as a bound, isolated, and self-sufficient place in and of itself are both seemingly contradictory, and yet not dissimilar. The Denny's was interesting in this regard, for the Denny's was a community in and of itself, with interactions that occur daily, on every shift, but at the same time a part of the larger culture of America.

The displays of generosity that were witnessed, from the couple and from the homeless man's desire to leave a tip were of particular note. It is believed that America is a generous nation not because all of its citizens are rich, but because generosity serves as a means to show the spirit of the nation. Americans, on a small scale, do not wait for the government to solve their problems, but work to find solutions that may be implemented by themselves, as with the couple who was willing to pay for a meal of a man that they had never met and most likely would not see again.

The last aspect of American culture to be discussed is the overdependence upon technology. Of those that in Denny's, only the woman from the couple, the homeless man, and the night manager did not use a laptop, tablet, cell phone, or smart phone. America's population is heavily dependent upon technology, and as society works to further integrate technology in daily life older generations are adopting the technologies as well, creating a mindless populace concerned with being constantly plugged in. Each individual becomes more dependent upon technology and keeps them constantly connected, providing another example of Spindler and Spindler's research, showing that though everyone is a part of a larger community, they are also self-sustaining communities made through technological use.

Through observing during a several hour period at Denny's it was possible to see a complete slice of American culture, observing how individuals interacted with each other, never stopping what they were doing, but still creating their own personal community that remained in existence from the time they walked in the doors to the time that they left. American culture is a unique union of all cultures; a literal melting pot. It was possible to see that, regardless of how events transpired, no matter how bad they could get, there are those who will remain entitled and there are those who are willing to help out another human being in need, making American culture a culture unlike any other.