Wednesday, 3 March 2010

People watching

People watching - something most of us find ourselves doing, sometimes subconsciously and sometimes embarrassingly. People are intriguing. Human behaviour and reaction is a natural part of us and each individual is unique in such ways.


Now that I have a chance to people watch for a valid reason, unlike usually sitting on the pavement glaring at peoples’ ripped Converse and wondering how these women are coping in the 6inch heels they’re sporting, which is my usual position. Ok, so I am intrigued how people move, why they move and how they use the space they are in. This is important as it creates an atmosphere, whether good or bad, it creates mood which affects the people in this space, ultimately reflecting on the people and their lives.


My new home. It is a kind of space I have never experienced before. A building of 9 floors, full of young design students adjusting to new life away from their home comforts. Everyday I am hit by the same situation when I enter the building – to wait for the lift or use the stairs? How long will it take? 90% of the time my impatience takes over and I walk, but no-one else ever seems to. Why would people rather wait three times the amount of time to stand with a stranger and induce an awkward silence in the lift on the way up the two flights of stairs?


I may have looked like a creep but I took this opportunity to get my camera out and investigate. I have created myself a new project to look at human behaviour and how individuals feel and react in situations of forced intimacy, concentrating on stairwells mainly, but also elevators. I sat at the bottom of the lift in the entrance hall and did a site analysis, filming moments of quietness and students waiting in anticipation, calculating how long it took their patience to run out before they decided to take the stairs. Let’s just say I am extremely inpatient!

The conclusions that I came to were as follows:

1.     1. These young people seem to be (on the whole) comfortable in their own skin. By this I mean that they are willing to stand in silence with a stranger for a longish period of time, in a confined space, without appearing nervous or uncomfortable.

2.    2.  People are lazy.

3.     3. They are not too bothered about the health benefits walking can have.

4.     4. But, more importantly, elevators force people to interact. It encourages people to make eye contact, talk to one an other, and if the conversation is ‘successful’  it has to be concluded, which usually in our culture is done with arrangement of a date or meeting. Therefore this leads on to contacts being made and networks being built.

5.     5. This also suggests that when people are determined (that is to take the lift and not walk in this case), and they are in a situation with a stranger of sorts, we can form relationships with people we would not usually do. Of course this is generalisation but on the whole it did result in chatting.

I am still investigating this with different variables, including senses, in a different building, in a different country (if someone wants to try it in Dundee feel free!), and on the stairwell (which so far has had similar results), so more thoughts to come..

This is some of my research so far:

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