Why do some retail environments draw you in like a magnet and make you want to linger, while others make you want to bolt? What is it, exactly, about the design of an Apple store that appeals to many contemporary shoppers? Why do women tend to like shopping more than men? Why are many parents turned off by Abercrombie & Fitch? What makes a commercial space look and feel right or wrong for a particular audience? These are the kinds of questions you’ll explore and write about in this course. To ground our work, we’ll investigate the field of retail anthropology: the study of how and why consumers shop as they do. We’ll read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Science of Shopping,” Jack Hitt’s “The Theory of Supermarkets,” and excerpts from Paco Underhill’s insightful and entertaining books Why We Buy, Call of the Mall, and What Women Want. For your first essay in the course, you’ll conduct an in-depth rhetorical analysis of a local commercial space of your choice. After determining its purpose and audience, you’ll evaluate how effectively it tries to persuade people through its use of design, layout, architecture, music, colors, mood, etc. You’ll map the space, try to feel what it’s like to participate in or “experience” it, study how others interact with it, and take field notes to record your observations. What rhetorical strategies does the space use? How well does it achieve its purpose(s)? What evidence from Underhill can you add to your essay to further support your claims? For your second essay, you’ll pursue a topic of your choice related to the science of shopping and write a persuasive essay about it. You’ll continue to study relevant retail environments firsthand but will also hit the books and the online databases to gather useful sources related to your topic. Possible topics include the relationship between shopping and race/class/gender, the ethical implications of video surveillance and consumer tracking, the psychological function of music, and the cultural significance of commercial spaces as sites of social interaction. Course activities will include field trips to the Stanford Bookstore and the Stanford Shopping Center to conduct participant-observation research.
Enrollment limited to high school students only.