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SOC1033 : Understanding Everyday Life

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Mark Casey
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module introduces students to the world of everyday life and regards this important dimension of human experience as both a topic and a field of sociological inquiry. The module encourages students to make sociological sense of ‘ordinary’ situations, people, events, things and practices, and to question and investigate the ‘taken-for-grantedness’ of our everyday lives and encounters. The module is organised around six main themes: i) Lifestyles; ii) People; iii) Knowledges; iv) Places; v) Imagination; vi) Things. (Themes may change with teaching team).

Each theme incorporates:
i) an introduction to a range of theoretical and conceptual frameworks for understanding how the mundane, micro-level activities and experiences of everyday life in everyday settings are implicated in processes of social change and transformation; in the construction and reconstruction of social order and structure; and in relationships of power, resistance and conflict;
ii) an introduction to methodological ways of exploring everyday life;
iii) an introduction to the design and completion of fieldwork exercises in a variety of real-life situations;
iv) an introduction to key tools of primary and secondary data collection, including observational/ethnographic, discursive, visual, virtual, documentary and interviewing methods;
v) an introduction to data analytical techniques relevant to naturalistic/interpretative approaches to social research;
vi) an introduction to the use of empirical data and research findings to investigate and evaluate conceptual understandings of everyday life.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus for this module is a dynamic one and takes account of current and contemporary events/circumstances occurring within the taught period of the module, and from one year to the next. The syllabus outlined here is therefore indicative only. Theoretical/conceptual and methodological content forms the intellectual cornerstone of the module, and is introduced in lectures, demonstrated and applied through workshops and fieldwork, and critically evaluated through seminar discussion. Conceptual ideas and inspirations may be drawn from a number of theoretical frameworks, but will vary in relation to the substantive issues explored in each thematic sequence. These may include, but not be limited to insights generated by interpretive sociologies; critical sociologies; cultural theory; poststructuralist perspectives. Similarly, methodological approaches will vary in relation to the substantive content of each thematic; methods of data collection and analysis may include, but will not be limited to ethnographic methods; interviewing; discourse analysis; visual methodologies; virtual methodologies; documentary methods. The emphasis throughout is to develop theoretical and methodological understanding through an applied approach based on fortnightly practical exercises (everyday fieldwork) involving empirical research undertaken in everyday settings. The module incorporates two fieldtrips (one local, one distance) which build on, enrich and extend the hands-on empirical work undertaken through the fortnightly ‘everyday fieldwork’ exercises. Each fieldtrip is supported by a seminar, which provides a reflexive space for discussing the conceptual, and methodological insights generated by the fieldtrip experience. Please note: Themes may change with the teaching team.

Theme 1: Lifestyles
Weeks 1 and 2: 1 lecture, 1 workshop, 1 everyday fieldwork exercise, 1 seminar
Substantive topics may include: shopping, gardening, celebrity, fashion, consumerism, eating and cooking, health, leisure, sport, working lives, ageing, criminality, holidaymaking, travelling, hobbies and pastimes.

Theme 2: People
Weeks 3 and 4: 1 lecture, 1 workshop, 1 everyday fieldwork exercise, 1 seminar
Substantive topics may include: identities, communities, self, others, memory, emotions, intimacy, bodies, gender, ethnicity, faith-groups, sexualities, disabilities, individualism, youth, children, families, parenting, difference, diaspora.

Theme 3: Knowledges
Weeks 5 and 6: 1 lecture, 1 workshop, 1 everyday fieldwork exercise, 1 fieldtrip, 1 seminar
Substantive topics may include: science, common sense, media, intuition, practical consciousness, affect, mythologies, narrative, orthodoxy, meaning-making, tradition, religion, visual knowledge, reflexivity, subjectivity/objectivity.

Theme 4: Places
Weeks 7 and 8: 1 lecture, 1 workshop, 1 everyday fieldwork exercise, 1 seminar
Substantive topics may include: tourism, cities, security, heritage, commemoration, public/private spaces, homes, landscapes, segregation, streetlife, architecture, work places, non-places, nightscapes, shopping malls, markets, globalisation, localism, mobility, migration and movement.

Theme 5: Imagination
Weeks 9 and 10: 1 lecture, 1 workshop, 1 everyday fieldwork exercise, 1 seminar
Substantive topics may include: realism, idealism, utopia, dystopia, film, literature, poetry, music, art, aesthetics, desire, emotions, fear of crime, insecurities, alienation, nostalgia, time-space instantiation, morality, ethics, creativity, happiness, Gothicism, wickedness, pasts, presents and futures

Theme 6: Things
Weeks 11 and 12: 1 lecture, 1 workshop, 1 everyday fieldwork exercise, 1 fieldtrip, 1 seminar
Substantive topics may include: technologies (communication-, mobile-, cyber- surveillance-), digitalisation, virtual worlds, monuments, consumer goods, commodification, waste and rubbish, transport, automation, networks and flows, material cultures

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture62:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice61:006:00'Everyday fieldwork' exercises
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:006 x no. of groups, tbc
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops61:006:006 x 2 groups
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork110:0010:00Leeds all day Fieldwork exercise
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1158:00158:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures (2 hours) introduce students to the key theoretical, conceptual and methodological approaches to understanding everyday life as both a topic and a field of sociological inquiry. Workshops based on Case Study Analysis (1 hour) provide students with the important ‘hands-on’ experience of applying theoretical and methodological understandings of everyday life to a range of empirical data. Preparation for the CSA Workshops requires students to undertake a practical ‘everyday fieldwork’ exercise in an everyday setting, providing students with valuable opportunities to develop and practise research skills. CSA work also helps to build confidence and the development of team-working, problem-solving, oral presentation skills, as well as serving to prepare students for the individual critical case study assessment. Seminars (1 hour) provide a forum for reflecting on, evaluating and critically debating journal articles relevant to the particular thematic. Students will be directed toward particular articles/readings for the seminars; and will be expected to prepare a critical synopsis of 2 these articles for assessment. A fieldtrip is offered to facilitate a module-wide, focused fieldwork experience which takes students out of the classroom and allows them to engage with and explore in a very practical way, the material taught in Themes 1-3. The fieldtrip involves travel further afield (all day) to Leeds, and entails empirical data collection which will further develop students’ research skills. The Fieldtrip is supported by a follow-up seminar which provides a reflexive space for discussing the conceptual, and methodological insights generated by the fieldtrip experience.insights generated by the fieldtrip experience.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M252 x Critical synopsis of journal article, linked to seminar preparation: 500 words each (worth 12.5% of overall mark each)
Essay2M35Conceptual review of 1500 words
Case study2M40Critical case study of 1500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

(1) Essays 1 and 2: these are described in the module handbook as ‘Critical synopses’ and are designed to link students’ preparatory work for, and attendance at seminars, to assessment. Students are required to submit 2 short and succinct, critical reviews of seminar readings which allows assessment of the depth and breadth of their knowledge and understanding of seminar content. (2) Essay 3: this is described as ‘Conceptual review’ in the module handbook, and will assess students’ developing grasp of the conceptual vocabulary introduced through lectures and seminars. Each thematic sequence will identify a range of keywords which students should become familiar and confident with over the course of the taught programme; this assessment measures this progress. Key concepts for review will be selected from a list prepared by the module team. (3) Critical case study: students will be required to submit a critical case study which will assess their knowledge and understanding of firstly, the theoretical and conceptual vocabulary appropriate to the sociology of everyday life; secondly, the design and application of relevant methodological and analytical frameworks to make sense of an aspect of everyday life in everyday settings; and thirdly, the sociological use and value of research findings generated by empirical data. Students will be free to select for themselves the material and focus of the critical case study.

Reading Lists