II. Data and Methods
III. Summary of Findings
IV. Discussion and Conclusion
This paper describes a detailed, qualitative exploration of social behavior concerning interaction and communication on individuals of different age and gender on the basis of a hidden observation within a bakery in southern Germany. The existing literature states a drastically change in values regarding diverse generations, which is consistent with the authors results. The first outstanding finding of the investigation was the generational difference in personal interaction between the customer and the cashier. The second significant discovery was the different perception of time amongst younger and older individuals in the process of shopping at a bakery. This leads to the assumption that productivity and efficiency surpass the desire for social contact. Therefore, this finding provides an important contribution towards better understanding generational distinctions in behavior and the altered conception of time as a resource.
Though it is widely recognized that the overall population of Germany is aging and that there are currently up to four different generations living alongside each other, there is insufficient data in order to identify generational distinctions in regards of shopping behavior in a bakery. By pinpointing these variations one could provide a useful framework for building awareness and comprehension of the varying perspective, attitudes, values and expectations among diverse generations. In order to provide such a framework following questions have to be asked:
Why do people prefer to remain silent while they are inside a bakery? What prevents younger generations from starting a friendly, straightforward conversation with other customers or the cashier? These issues are completely unfamiliar to the older generations. But in a social environment that is constantly shifting and evolving based on technology advances and economic influences people tend to have the constant feeling of lacking time despite having more time on their disposal.
However, in older times this scenario was not the general case. Bakeries were identified as social places where people could gather to put aside the concerns of home and work, and to simply enjoy other peoples company and the possibility of a lively conversation (Olver, Rush, 2000). In other words, at an earlier time bakeries functioned as a third place in society like described by Ray Oldenburg. His theory of a third place stated that people must have a neutral ground where they could socialize with friends or strangers, where every individual could come and go as they please, in which no one is required to play host and in which all are able to experience a homey and comfortable atmosphere (Oldenburg, 1989). But what caused this extraordinary change of atmosphere in such third places like bakeries?
The key factor behind this development and the main component of modernization itself can be declared as acceleration. Furthermore, the term acceleration has to be distinguished between mechanical acceleration, the acceleration of social change and the accelerating pace of everyday life. Since the advent of industrialization along with mechanical acceleration in the 19th century, the pace of life itself has been accelerated (Hammelehle, 2013). Within the meaning of mechanical acceleration, the rapid diffusion of information and communication technologies such as mobile phones, instant messaging, email, online calendars and the Internet accelerated contemporary life even further although earlier literature predicted that technical progress would increase free time and as a consequence slow down the pace of life (Leshed, Sengers, Neustaedter, n.d.). But in modern business life, technology is thought of as a tool for driving increasing efficiency and productivity. Especially through the excessive use of the smart phone, which enables better time management and fills up gaps that would otherwise be natural breaks in the pattern of work (Bunting, 2004).
Therefore, multitasking, time tracking and scheduling have become essential time management skills in everyday business life. Another proof for this endless pursue of time efficiency can be seen in contemporary business practices like just-in-time management, round-the-clock accessibility or same-day turnaround time. But despite all offered advantages like cost and time saving or greater flexibility, strictly time management can have a negative impact in terms of stress, burnout and turnover intention (Wright, Abendschein, Wombacher, O´Connor, Hoffman, Dempsey, Krull, Dewes, Shelton, 2014).
Technological progress was meant to slow down the pace of life and to eliminate work life conflicts, but in the end it turned homes into an electronically second workplace, expanding work into leisure time, and the reverse (Kossek, Lautsch, 2008). As a result, time management skills and time efficiency have become omnipresent not only in business but also in private life. Even in their leisure time younger people tend to seize as many activities and trends as possible in keeping with the mottos: Living life to the fullest. It is now throughout known that technology with its devices is a tool to satisfy the urge of becoming more efficient and productive and to realize as many options as possible from the infinite palette of possibilities that life represents (Hammelehle, 2013).
This lack of down time and the blurring boundary between home and work caused by technological acceleration made younger people to productively use their time even in third places such as cafes, subways or bakeries. (Bittman, Brown, Wajcman, 2009). This culture of busyness, where individuals feel an urge to constantly doing something productively and efficiently, combined with the busy life created by the current perception of time, with less time to socialize has resulted in alienation (Rosa, 2010). For younger generations the increase in free or leisure time is not supposed to be wasted on contacting people or being contacted by them (Bittman, Brown, Wajcman, 2009). Social bonds have become stretched across space but compressed in time, giving way to accelerated forms of sociality (Wajcman, 2008). Due to the simple fact that social interaction and communication requires time, space and attention, people´s attitude towards their relationships among each other and between third places changed radically.
II. Data and Methods
The author himself collected the data from a small town bakery in Abtsgmünd located in southern Germany in the Ostalb Region. This bakery was chosen because it is a designated area for groups and individuals of different age and gender. The observation was conducted twice on Wednesday afternoons between 3pm to 6pm. The repetition was to ensure a comparability and thus consistency in result confidence.
In order to study every customer and to guarantee an optimal overview during this hidden observation the researcher was sitting at a table in the corner of the bakery. Therefore it was possible to drink a cup of coffee while taking notes of every occurring incident. To avoid any attention the observer acted as a common customer. Furthermore the researcher was wearing inconspicuous dress in avoidance of influencing the entering people. In addition to unobtrusive acting and dressing, there was no personal contact and no communication with the customers involved in the observation to ensure no external influence on the observation.
From the moment of entering to the moment of leaving the bakery with the purchased goods, customers were monitored to a nicety. The purpose of the observation was to determine how customers interact with the cashier and how they behave while standing in queue. The main focus however was to conclude if there are any distinctions between different generations.
After collecting the data with this qualitative method, all social activities including gestures, body language, conversation, interactions and other forms of behavior were recorded. The next step was to identify specific patterns among these forms of behavior, which represented the foundation of the second observation. During the first observation the researcher was able to identify two key factors, which affected the social behavior of people most of all. The first factor was identified as time and the second one was age. This knowledge was used as a base for the second observation, which confirmed the patterns found in the first.
- Quote paper
- Florian Steidle (Author), 2016, Life in the Fast Lane. An Observational Study in a Bakery, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/318740