What did I do: User research, observational evolution, constructive loitering… constroitering? The focus of my user research activity was to learn how to effectively observe and document practices, people, and places. The sprint activity consisted of a good amount of imagined observations couple with a brief exercise of going out and actively researching peoples use of a study area. This glimmer of experience really opened my eyes to what areas I needed to focus when conducting my actual study.
I chose the U-Village Safeway to conduct my research on a market place. My goal was to discover what practices were typical, which were unique and to include as much detail as I could as to the who and where these things were happening. I spent just over 30 minutes writing non-stop to gather as much of what I witnessed as I could. When I got home I analyzed my data and recorded the method, three practices and a unique practice with a design proposal attached.
Reflection: Caution shyness and insecurity may halt productivity! I ended up going to 3 different grocery stores before I found a place I felt comfortable conducting a user research study. I hadn’t planned or prepared for feeling uneasy if I didn’t have a comfortable place to watch and write from. This issue dramatically increased the time spent on this project but didn’t go without teaching me something for the future. Knowing this about myself I either have to go into future situations like this knowing I’ll be uncomfortable for a period or that I need to more thoughtfully consider where I’ll conduct my research. Honestly, the latter is preferred because I believe my ability to observe was dramatically benefited from the comfort I felt.
Wildcard: What did I enjoy the most during this user research activity? Making up names for practices of course. If you couldn’t tell from my title and introduction. It fascinating how deep the understanding of a practice can become when attempting to make a name for it. Though I realize this isn’t entirely necessary and that many practices likely already have adequate names, this simple act not only increased my focus and productivity during this exercise but also made it quite fun. I’m not sure if the practice of naming practices has a name, but if not how about practifining (practice-defining) or namelating (name-relating).
Reflexivity: I think having a visible or known presence is practically a guarantee that you’re going to have some level of influence over the environment your researching. For me, I know that the people who were in closest proximity to me talked very little, and occasional awkward eye contact at times lead me to believe some individuals may have avoided me intentionally. Thus, my presence manipulated to some degree the behaviors of some of those I was observing. One area that my presence may have left a greater impact that hoped is that I was at one of two available dining tables in Safeway, and since the other table was occupied during my research no one else who got food sat down to eat it.
It’s impossible to know for sure if the table would have been used by another had I not been there, but I know with an almost certainty that no one was going to use it while I was there. To address this issue, in the future I may avoid siting or placing myself in an area with a low supply of usable space.