As an Interior and Environmental Designer it is important to consider many aspects when designing. With many factors contributing to the overall experience of a space, context and behaviour of humans play a crucial part in how we react in a specific area requiring extensive research when trying to understand this idea. Reviewing the work I completed in first semester which primarily stemmed from Gladwell (2000) The Power of Context (Part 1), it is important to understand how the methods I have learnt over the past year could be applied to gain a deeper understanding of the topic.
Observing people going about their everyday lives we can try and tap into what physical and social features act as stimuli in provoking a certain response. Factors such as location and tolerance levels play a central role in trying to understand how a community works. Whether you are located in a rural or city region, it will have affected certain aspects of your life. For example how might you respond to a situation, positively or negatively? Removing someone from a familiar context and placing them in an alien one can cause a dramatic change in mood, with people becoming nervous and feeling vulnerable. Trying to do this without anyone becoming suspicious is hard and people might not act naturally but it something that Bronfenbrenner (1979) feels is significant when arguing an individual’s reaction to different contexts. When studying an area it is important to listen to the locals. They live there all the time and know about occurrences in the area that you yourself might not pick up on. Using this technique when studying different areas, could allow you to compare the results and allow you to construct key questions that could be asked if interviewing people.
Interviewing people in different locations would either provide an honest response or a biased one. Careful consideration of questions that covered a broad area would narrow the chance for one sided views and with a certain wording could provoke a certain response from an individual. It would be important that a variation on the interviews took place, families, couples and singles as each group would have a different stance of the questions being asked. Asking people questions in groups could prove both advantageous and disadvantageous as there would be a danger that individuals could be influenced. Performing interviews on people with a mixture of ages would prove valuable to gaining an insight into a community from a wide scope of people as different age groups will have different opinions on the area and it is important to consider all angles of the argument. With age comes experience but this does not mean to say that young people should be disregarded, everyone in the community is interacting with the space at a different level. Similarly, this technique should be adhered to if you were to ever interview people from more than one neighbourhood. Taylor, R. B. (1996) suggests that we have to consider the different threats each area poses and when creating the questions a large variation has to exist to gain a maximum level of awareness.
Visual research can be very effective, especially as some people respond better to this technique. Asking people to look at pictures that have been picked specifically can allow you to understand how people see things in a community, e.g. pictures of graffiti, maintained gardens, thugs, tidy streets, which might stir personal responses from some participants. Again as mentioned in other researching methods a mixture of participants, age, sex and race, could all have a varying effect on the data obtained. Changing factors such as the way the images are presented to individuals and the order they are received should all be consider when analysing the results. The use of images is less intimidating than interviews and some people may find it easier to open up and discuss things more with sometimes images causing catalytic reactions. As Barthes argues “all images are polysemous” the danger that people would discuss different things could distract you from your original objective.
Making use of the visual side of the research, taking photographs of an area provides a still snapshot at that given time. Annotating these still frames can allow you to spot things over a certain period of time and with everything frozen it is easier to notice something than it would ever be when observing. With areas constantly changing, these images can be compared over a period of time and with change being such a visual element, it would be hard to distinguish these changes say from a piece of text or a recording. Likewise with video recordings, you could observe in a visual respect with the one difference being that you could see more of how people interact with the space. Stopping, rewinding, slowing down and watching repeatedly can allow you to spend as much time looking at the observations you have captured. Watching things repeatedly lets the observations made be more accurate, with a high chance of seeing something new everytime you can ‘wring’ the footage as much as possible. Conducting a meticulous study with similar aspects, Barker, R.G. & Wright, H. (1955) claim “…the behaviour setting provided information in which allowed explanations for the behaviour observed. Individuals move through a wide range of behaviour settings each day, and it is not personality traits which control behaviour”.
Using crime rates along with visual evidence of an area could provide a comparison method. Areas with high crime rates could be scanned for stereotypical features of a ‘bad’ neighbourhood such as graffiti, broken windows, etc but the only danger with this is that you may unintentionally look for these common traits rendering the findings a little inaccurate. Researching into some of the crime prevention schemes that run in certain areas might prove useful with one such scheme being introduced in Kent. Muir, H (2009) describes the scheme as “A pioneering drive by one of Britain's biggest police forces to tackle antisocial behaviour and low-level offending is being linked to a massive reduction in crime and people's fear of crime”, bearing this in mind, would the opinions of a community change if crime was reduced?
Bringing together all the research gathered, it is important to consider some factors when analysing the results; influences, individuals, location, age, personality, upbringing, etc as these will all have a bearing factor on how an individual has reacted. Other influential factors include home, school and neighbourhood which have shaped massively how we respond to something but by conducting a large number of experiments it would allow stronger conclusions to be drawn from results and allow points to be backed up with researched evidence. Although up-to-date sources like newspapers such as the Guardian and articles on the topic report facts the results that you will have collated are relevant to the area in which you want to specialise in.
Bronfenbrenner, U 1979, The ecology of human development, MA: Harvard University Press, Cambridge
Gladwell, M 2000, The Tipping Point, Little, Brown, Great Britain
Innis, R.E 1985, Semiotics: an introductory anthology, advances in semiotics, Bloomington Indianna University Press
Muir, H 2009, Kent police attribute massive reduction in crime to neighbourhood teams, The Guardian, viewed 22 March 2010, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/sep/21/kent-police-crime-neighbourhood-teams>
Taylor, R. B. 1996, ‘Neighbourhood responses to disorder and local attachments: the systemic model of attachment, social disorganization, and neighbourhood use value’, Sociological Forum, vol. 11, no.1, pp. 41-74.