This assignment was all about observing people. I enjoy watching people (not in a creepy way!) thus took great pleasure in carrying out this experiment.
Firstly, I read a passage from The Ethnography Primer which explains tips on becoming an Ethnographer, how important the relationship between what designers make and the meaning of their products has for people, and how observing people can relate to design. There were bits in this passage which were particularly interesting such as:
- Ethnography allows us to understand norms like, for instance, different cultures. Muslims wear a head scarf (tudong) because of traditional reasons, and due to keeping with the commandments of Allah. However, in UK people do not wear headscarves, and sometimes we like to expose more skin than others. This may be normal to the everyday UK civilian but what about Muslims? This is all about respect, and I guess if you have come to UK from a country full of tradition and customs, you would expect to see more skin than usual. This should not affect the way you talk to them or think of them as you are in their country which has no rules on these customs.
- Ethnography takes into account how powerful communications are. Whilst listening to a lecture I may disagree with the person speaking and react with an expression of awe. It was the power of words that caused my reaction. Sometimes I may see someone looking confused suggesting they do not understand the way in which the person is expressing something. For designers, you may have to work out exactly why they are confused and design a method which they will understand. Maybe it’s visually?
- By observing reality you should discover that watching what people do than say is much more meaningful. For instance, I knew a girl who announced she was vegetarian. The next day I saw her eating a bacon roll. For a designer, they could research real emotions and intentions and convey these realities through a piece of work to the public. People may become inspired and feel they ‘connect’.
Play and Observe: Primary Site
After reading the ethnography extract, I headed out to find people to observe in what’s called a ‘Primary Site’: somewhere I have not been before. So I decided to give Mecca Bingo a try.
As I sat down I realised just how big the hall was, the carpets and walls were dramaticly coloured in reds, blues, pinks, which create a sense of excitement, speed and energy. Whilst glancing round the people sitting completely absorbed into numbers, I noticed a surprising variation in age. The room was completely silent apart from the caller giving out the numbers and scribbling of pens, which created a feeling of suspense as if a climax was growing. This feeling of tension made me feel a little uncomfortable at first.
A mature lady, about 58, sat at a table on her own diagonally to me. It was clear she was a regular here as she seemed to be extremely fast with her hands and reactions. But why was she sitting on her own? In fact, I became aware that there were many older people who sat by themselves. Where was their husband/wife? Was this her/his alone time? Or did she/he prefer the wins for herself/himself? I believe this was just a hobby this lady enjoyed playing by herself as she did not look up and glance at what other people were doing. She wore a blue cardigan, a striped shirt underneath, glasses and hair cut short.
As we entered the hall we had to buy a little booklet to play the game, the one I got cost £1 but the person who was selling them was beginning to explain the other booklets you could get. She said things like “you have a chance to win £4000 if you get this booklet” or “this booklet is a common winner” etc. She actually enticed me into buying these things but I had to keep reminding myself it is very unlikely I would win anyway. There is also a little coin slot machine and numbers built into your table area where you can play more bingo but win bigger money. This entices you because it is in very easy reach and of course the money. The staff are amazingly friendly and calm, we had a good long chat with the manager of the place. I told him how surprised I was to see such a variety of people playing bingo. He said monday afternoons are usually the most varied, people from 18 to over 85 come and play no one in between. Why is this? Students wanting to make a bit of cash between lectures? Pensioners I think just come and enjoy a day out which sounds nice. However, this sense of friendliness is clever so that people will never feel afraid to come back. Between games there seems to be a bit more chat and almost a sense of relief from concentrating so hard. I felt it too.
I then observed a couple, roughly in their late 20’s playing quite happily. Perhaps they met at the Bingo hall. The man was wearing a grey shirt, dark blue jeans, and had a tattoo on his arm. The woman had a white thin blouse on, black leggings, dark brown hair in a pony tail and a black flower in it. This makes me feel that Bingo isn’t just a hobby for old people, it is for young people too. At first I was unsure about playing Bingo, but as I saw the huge age range of people, I felt more content and comfortable. I guess you can say it is because being around people like you doesn’t make you, by yourself, stand out and look weird, thus makes you feel less nervous and self conscious.
I then seeked out my secondary sites
So today after a busy day, I sat on a bench in front of Claire’s and Office in Overgate. There was music playing in the background to create a casual but comfortable atmosphere which is beneficial because it relaxes people whilst they go about doing their busy shopping. On the windows of Claire’s there were 4 over-sized red posters which had ‘RED NOSE DAY’ and one which had ‘ALL EARRINGS 3 FOR 2’. Simple signs like these can make all the difference as it catches people’s attention and lures them in. I finally laid my eyes upon a lady, possibly in her mid 20’s, average build and long dark reddish-brown hair (most likely dyed) which stopped just below the shoulders. She wore a beautiful black corset jacket, black glasses and a black fedora-like hat (notice everything is black?). She was accompanied by a friend, who she chatted seriously to for a second then made their way into Claire’s – possibly being enticed in by the massive posters. She tended to pick everything up and feel it, to me, this suggests she takes things into great consideration, she is inquisitive or maybe just simply interested in the tem. I believe it is important for customers to be able to touch things as they will get to know the piece and identify with it. If everything were in plastic casings it would be less of an attraction: you would not know how well it had been made and how it feels to wear.
Another two girls walk right past, about 16 years of age, one of the girls is chatting away to her friend in an annoyed serious tone. Was she talking about a someone she found annoying? Or was that just her normal manner of speaking? She looks like she takes great care in her appearance: fake tan; thick eyelashes; leopard print top; chestnut-brown hair. As she speaks she does not look once at her friend, is this a real friend or is she on the look out for other people?
Two old men, both wearing glasses, green weather-proof jackets, black trousers walk casually past, enjoying conversation with one another. It is clear they are extroverts and have been friends for many years just by looking at their cheerful and relaxed body language. They do not look into shop windows, in fact they do not look like they are shopping at all, perhaps just having a nice walk through the town. Why are they dressed the same? Is Bourdieu right? Is it because of their friendship they have begun to dress similar to one another?
I made the Health Care Centre in Wallace Town another Secondary site as I was waiting for my appointment with a doctor. The room had a low ceiling, drab lighting, old faded carpet and furniture and was very quiet. There was a mother and her daughter sitting across from me, the girl had a white cardigan on, glasses, hair tied in a pony tail, black trackies on and trainers.I suspected she was the one in for the doctor. She was immersed in playing a game on her pink phone. Was pink her favourite colour? Pink symbolises energy; excitement; fun – does this represent her personality? Her mother was watching her, glancing round every so often. I was never allowed to play games on my Nintendo in front of my mum unless I was really ill, was this the case in this situation? Was her daughter really ill? The mother had pursed lips, a dark blue weather-proof jacket on, jeans, a flowery bag and nicely-kept hair. This to me suggests she is not very confident with her body as she is wearing quite plain colours whilst her bag is the opposite. Her pursed lips imply that perhaps she is a serious kind of person, worries a lot and is a hard-worker.
After my observations, me and two of my friends gathered and talked about our experience when we went to play Bingo. We agreed that the hall was coloured to entice people in and create a fun and exciting atmosphere. The staff were overly friendly, welcoming and down to earth as if they could relate to anyone so that they made customers feel at ease and comfortable. Gamblers attitudes in the game were:
- Over-excitement – for example, a lady shouted “HOUSE!” really loudly and excitedly over winning a tenner. Possibly this was her first ever win at Bingo, as I would probably be the same!
- Adrenalin – as the numbers are given by the caller everyone’s heads are down and you can see they are all on edge, biting their lip, not blinking. I guess the adrenalin of winning something can be so addictive, I experienced it too.
- Tension – between games people chat but as soon as the game begins a whole sense of suspense settles into the room. Complete silence.
We also discussed how easy it is to spend money, due to the well-designed and easy reach coin slot machines on the tables. You become influenced by other people inserting coins into them because sometimes they win, which, in turn, makes you believe you have a chance. In addition, when someone wins a round, you realise people become more competitive and attentive as they shuffle in their seats and whisper. Some tables were occupied by, what looked like, families as though the parents were wanting to make more money for the family because her job does not pay quite enough.
This research into observing people into detail gives me a great insight into how design effects how people act. From the relaxing music creating a casual atmosphere in Overgate to the anticipating silence conveying a sense of suspense and excitement at Bingo. Luring people by dramatic posters in Claire’s to the easy reach coin slot machines at Bingo. Simply being able to interact and touch items in shops can increase sales dramaticly. All these pieces of design makes such a difference, not only for the customers pleasure, but for the sellers pockets too.