Method

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This is an exploratory study, meant to be an initial exploration of the field and

a means to think about design in a transitional public place. The spatial,

temporal and social consequences of mobility can be ethnographically studied

by focusing on an environment in order to understand how this place both

affords and constrains activities. The station (and to a certain degree also the

airport) is a public place, which is available to anyone and where people engage

in all sorts of activities.

The observation was made covert; we did not ask the people we observed for

consent. We have found it reasonable to study people without their consent,

since behavior in public places is always open for observation. People are

aware of being seen when being in public places, and we, as researchers, are

able to observe just the same as others. Furthermore we have not focused on

anybody in particular, but rather on activities, so the people being observed

doing things are not recognizable in our data. Being in the public place also

makes us and hence our actions as researchers, observing and taking notes,

visible to others. Therefore we find it ethically acceptable to observe people in

public places. In the public place we instantaneously become social actors

interacting by just being present in the environment, making our own actions

tools in the field study. This was evident at several occasions, one example is

when one of us looked intensively at a person and then took a note. This was

reproached by a long look, which shows that we are actors in this environment

on the same conditions as every other actor. However, we did not intentionally

and actively explore the social rules in the context by interacting with others.

Data Collection

Observations were conducted in two public places where people wait to travel,

at an airport and at a train station. We spent approximately 30 hours taking field

notes in these environments. The observations were conducted during a sixmonth

period. Each observation included two researchers observing and taking

detailed notes. The duration varied from one to three hours at a time. The

observation also covered different days of the week as well as different times

of the day. The purpose was to be able to understand how the activity changed

during the day and the week. Two researchers collected the data at the same

time, but in different physical locations within the same locality. To observe the

same environment from two separate perspectives enabled a richer understanding

of the activities in a mobile setting (Weilenmann, 2003). After each

observational setting the field notes were discussed. These discussions provided

a possibility to question each other’s assumptions and preconceptions,

and hence see how we should proceed with our observations. Since we

focused on a crowded and lively place the field notes sometimes tended to be

somewhat fragmentary. However, occasionally our field notes concerned the

same person observed at different times or the same event observed from

different angles and this gave us the possibility to better understand certain

situations.

A total of one hour of video was recorded at the train station. This video is

mainly used as a further resource, a means to validate and give further

understanding of what was seen in the field notes.