Student Sample
Grade A-

Anthropologists like to talk about "cultural signatures"--those elements of culture that reveal the values and priorities of its people. Think about our culture and those things which define our values and habits--fast food restaurants, shopping malls, Jiffy Lube oil changes, etc. Identify something that you believe represents a cultural signature and explain how it defines our cultural values.

Cell Phones

Cell phones clearly reveal our culture's values and priorities. They were developed because of the value we place on communication, safety, technology, and acceptance.

First of all, cell phones reflect our cultural priority of constant communication. We always want to be connected to our friends, family, and colleagues. Those little hand-held wonders make this possible. With a cell phone, you have the constant ability to communicate. Aside from those remote areas that still haven't been infected by the cell phone industry, you can, from anywhere in the country, stay in contact with those most important to you. You can conduct a business meeting with one client while you're driving to meet another. You can phone home to tell your spouse that you're stuck in a ten-mile long traffic jam and that you'll be home as soon as you can. You can phone your son or daughter and find out where they are, since their curfew was up an hour ago. The communication possibilities are endless. Cell phones are an integral part of today's high paced world that revolves around communication and mobility.

Another cultural priority that goes hand-in-hand with constant communication, is the need to feel safe. Cell phones enable many people to feel safe through being connected. Many people purchase cell phones mainly for use in emergencies. Who wants to be stuck on a dark road at night with a flat tire or an empty gas tank? As scary as this situation is, imagine it without a cell phone. You would either have to sit there and wait for the first person that comes along or start walking. And who knows whom, or what, you might run into on a dark road at night? With a cell phone you can call AAA or someone you know to come and help you. Every night on the news we hear of some tragic story of someone being attacked or abducted or even killed. It's a scary world we live in, and we all want to be able to get help when we need it most. This cultural priority of safety has prompted many women, senior citizens, teenagers, and even men to go out and purchase cell phones.

Cell phones reflect another cultural priority of today's society, which is technology. We live in a society that is constantly working to improve the technology we already have and innovate new technology that has yet to be discovered. People are in a never-ending search for the "new and improved." Cell phones properly demonstrate this cultural priority. Over the past decade, the technology of cell phones has improved leaps and bounds. Cell phones started out as big, clunky objects that were usually only used in cities by those in business. The technology had not spread much into suburban or rural areas. These phones got very poor reception and were not very reliable. Along with these phones came the car phone. Highly expensive at the time, they were used almost exclusively by the wealthier segment of the population.

As the technology improved and more people caught on to the convenience and usefulness of mobile phones, the bag phones were introduced. These were phones that were housed in a case, or bag, that held the phone in place. Bag phones were used solely in cars. They used the car's cigarette lighter as a power source. These phones were popular for a while, but people once again wanted something "new and improved." The technology of these phones improved by giving them a battery and allowing them to be completely portable. These phones gained widespread popularity and more and more people were buying them. These cell phones were analog and had poor reception in many areas that did not have a signal tower close by. So, after everyone had already purchased their analog cell phones, they came out with digital cell phones. These phones carried a promise of better, clearer reception and new longer lasting batteries. People began trading in their older analog phones for the new digital phones.

The digital cell phones have many technological abilities that are important to today's society. Digital cell phones have the ability to accept and send e-mail and short messages from phone to phone. These cell phones have all the luxuries of regular phones: Call waiting, caller ID, three way calling, and voice mail, just to name a few. It's obvious to see how cell phones reflect value our culture places on technology.

Cell phones are also a good example of how our culture is preoccupied with "fitting in." Many people spend their whole lives just trying to "fit in." They want to be accepted and liked. To many, cell phones are viewed as a trendy aspect of pop culture. Cell phones are a way of being part of the crowd. We can find no better example of this than with teenagers. The most important part of a teen's life is being accepted by a group of friends. Many individuals struggle throughout their teen years (and often their whole lives) to be popular and liked. For this reason, many teenagers go home and beg their parents to get them a cell phone. They think that if they have a cell phone people will all of a sudden notice them and think they are "cool." It's a desperate attempt to be part of the "in" crowd, but I've seen it time and time again.

So, as you can see, cell phones are of great importance to today's society. They accurately demonstrate the values and priorities that drive our culture to be the way it is.

This is a strong paper. It has good structure and strong detail. Note the "roadmap" sentence at the end of the first paragraph. It tells the reader what will be covered and in what order. I don't care much for the word "acceptance" at the end of the roadmap sentence. It's too ambiguous. When the writer begins to develop the last point, she uses the phrase "fitting in," which works better.

At the risk of seeming to nit-pick, let me point out a few things that could be improved.

The second point--about safety--is relevant, though the illustrations get a little extreme at the end. The most convincing illustrations are plausible and represent the norm.

The third point, technology, is least effective because it becomes a history of cellular phone development. It should focus more on our cultural preoccuation with technological development

Mechanics are generally good, but note the use of the word "you," as in--"You would either have to sit there and wait for the first person that comes along or start walking." Remember, when "you" is used as a plural, it refers not to people generally but to a well-defined group of people. When referring to people generally, use the third person.

Overall, however, this is a well-structured, well-developed paper.