sidewalk laboratory

physical survey

In addition to participant observation and interviewing, we surveyed uses of sidewalk space, over times of day and days of the week. We particularly focused on extra-pedestrian uses such as eating, vending, and recreating, as well as the placement of parking and sidewalk symbols. We noted gender, the number of people involved in each activity, the location and amount of space taken, integrating these with what we were learning in our interviews about how the space is negotiated and shared, over time. Our data are not observations of the built environment or land uses but a spatial ethnography. And despite the advice to use high-tech gadgets to collect the data, we quickly found that old-fashioned paper and pens were the most efficient and appropriate field technology for this kind of intimate and complex scale. In the end we collected nearly 4000 observations which were coded into ArcGIS. This data helped illuminate the potential flexibility of sidewalk space, given the dimension of time and openness of negotiation.