User observation

Otherwise known as the bird’s eye technique, this style of data collection allows researchers to gather information without direct interference with those being observed. Using video recordings allows large quantities of data to be analysed extensively and, when mounted discreetly, cameras are capable of avoiding the ‘observer effect’. Unobtrusive observation is an appropriate data collection technique in the context of studying pedestrians and their behaviours, as it enables large numbers of people to be studied in public spaces.

Observation of train passengers and their behaviours when boarding via cameras installed on the platform wall, over information boards and vending machines

For a project evaluating the behaviour or passengers, we installed several cameras along a platform and then analysed this data to produce heatmaps. They showed where passengers tend to board, indicating a ‘concentrated boarding’ near the platform entrance.

Heatmaps displaying the most frequent train position and passengers on the platform, as published in our journal article: “Analysing passengers’ behaviours when boarding trains to improve rail infrastructure and technology”,

Other observational techniques I performed recently include shadowing and usability studies, when participants are aware of the data collection.