Take trail mix... It is an energetic, "idealized" snack food. This comes primarily from the target populations the manufacturer focuses it is marketing. Other channels for influence include consumers looking for "quick" fixes, such as families looking for fast and fun food. It would be interesting to explore the link marketing of "fast" snack products such as this have on families with young children, and compare this with the influence the product had on the political and behavioral habits and beliefs of the college students consuming it.
Lastly, symbolic systems help us better understand how products are systematically introduced and marketed to consumers. This helps shapes attitudes and beliefs. Also important to note however, as learned in class, is whether societies tend to accept or reject certain items even if marketed well. For example, Roark (2007) noted that in many cultures certain foods or animals are taboo. Consider for a moment what influence this might have on the General Mills snack market, if trail mix or energy and convenience foods were considered "taboo." Given this, one might assume that no matter the types of advertising or merchandising the manufacturer engaged in, it is likely that the product would ultimately fail.
What this field study revealed was that a complex combination of factors influences human behavior and culture. Interactions, behaviors, food selections and economic choices made by manufacturers to produce food products are all impacted by an integrated system. Symbolic relationships exist between all of these components. For an ethnographer to truly understand the meaning of behavior and cultural beliefs, he or she must examine the influence of an object, such as food, in not just one context, but in many contexts. Anthropologists can truly come to understand the history of a culture, and changes globalization and other factors have on the culture being examined when they do this.
A found most interesting about this study the first part of the assignment, the ritualistic food observations. In this setting, given the limited number of participants, it is difficult to judge whether the behaviors demonstrated were unique to students, or behaviors that are deeply ingrained and the result of gender or even biologically-based factors.
To help better understand the patterns of behavior I observed, including the seeming "patriarchal" hierarchy of conversation and behaviors noticed I would have to observe the same students in multiple settings. Some questions to ask might include, "How would the females interact in a group of their peers, women only?" Also interesting would be an assessment of whether behaviors and interactions changed when group members met, conversed and ate with their family members compared with their peers. It is likely under these different environments I would notice distinct changes in behavior, though it is possible behaviors would remain the same. This would suggest that behaviors are more deeply ingrained than I initially believed.
The research conducted in class suggests that while subtle differences may be present in different social settings, largely people tend to act and react in similar ways if brought up in similar cultures. Given this, I might assume that gender does indeed play a significant role on one's actions and behaviors. Secondary to this would be the influence of economical or political factors, including commodity chain analysis or the manner in which producers marketed and packaged their products to sell to consumers.
This study has helped me better understand how ethnographic analysis is conducted, and how influential field work assignments can be to understanding complex human behaviors and the interplay between behavior, societal norms and even environmental factors.