User Research at it simplest.
The Rear Window, directed by Alfred Hitchcock is a film about a man, encumbered by a wheelchair and broken leg, observing the practices of his neighbors. The main character, an accomplished photographer named Jeff, uses his camera to watch as he believes a murder is being covered up. The movie encourages the audience to observe the neighbors too and make their own conclusions as well. By the end, Jeff has cataloged one of his neighbors sketchy behavior and correctly assumes he murdered his wife. He watches him take multiple trips with a bag, act nonchalant as he is accused of murdering a dog, and finally he watches the neighbor come over to confront him.
The Rear Window, while infinitely more dramatic, is very similar to a project I did this week where I observed the going abouts of my peers as the walked to class. On a beautiful Seattle day I sat outside my house, notebook in hand, and began a rigorous and fast-paced note taking process on practice people use to get from their homes to class and how they do it.
Some practices that I observed included people walking in groups, nonchalantly and socially. And people who walked solo, headphones in more than not, with their heads trained to their phones. I also observed in interesting practice of smaller groups with people having one headphone in and the other out to encourage talking. When the streets were fairly empty these practices were easy to observe and take notes on. But as class time approached the amount of people exponentially increased so the careful statics I had been gathering became more of general estimate. I might have drawn my tables and bullet points earlier so that I could have had more time to be more precise rather than draw tables.
This technique of careful observation was a very simple but effective one. I noticed the practice of “one headphone in, the other out” and it sparked design ideas for types of headphones that would encourage multitasking a social walk while still allowing audio listeners to enjoy their devices.
While I don’t think that observing a commute has vital global importance it called some important ideas to mind about the people I was observing. I watched as some students stumbled on the cracks and roots on the sidewalk, causing my to wonder if this is the reason why I never see people who have disabilities and need a wheelchair over in my area. The commute to campus from UW’s greek system is very unfriendly to different types of people especially disabled people. Hopefully this will change soon as I believe that all people should be able to have a stress free and inclusive commute.