People watching on public transport: PART 1

As a regular public transport user, I always find myself observing how we interact with media devices whilst travelling as well as how we inhibit and choose to behave in the public transport space. As mentioned in a previous blog, I find it so fascinating that from one commuter to another, media devices are used so profoundly different to each other. Why and how can people behave so differently with their media devices in public areas? Why is it that some cling their phone or laptop closely so that no one can view what they are viewing on their device, yet others enjoy sharing with the entire train carriage the music they are listening to? Why do we choose where to sit or stand when commuting or waiting to board the train?

As an ethnographic research project, I would to further explore this topic and compile my findings into a continuation of this blog series . In this project not only will I be observing and communicating with other public transport commuters but I would also like to perform some auto-ethnographic research on myself, as I am someone who makes at least 2-4 trips on public transport a day,

In this project I would like to compare our behaviours by looking into three major areas of interest including;

Devices used- whether this be mobile phones, iPad/tablets, laptops, etc.

Type of transport used- Trains, trains with silent carriages, bus, free shuttle bus.

Length of trip- 10-15min, 30min, 1hr+ trips

I’m extremely interested to see how these components may alter the behaviours of commuters as well as with their devices.

Another component I would like to take into consideration, are the general “rules” which are set in the space when entering any form of public transport. What is the expectation to behave in this space? Although some rules may be of criminal offence e.g. traveling without paying a fare, vandalising transport property, there are others which are just assumed “common sense”. However, what may be common sense to some, is very much not to others.

Public transport spaces are most of the time under constant video surveillance. I also plan to further investigate how this surveillance may change the way commuters behave, or if they are ignorantly unaware of such surveillance.

To carry out my investigation I will be undergoing participant observation, interviews with peers and conducting surveys through social media to gather my information. In addition to this I will be digitally taking note of my own behaviour as I catch the train and bus to uni and work in my daily routine. I have already started taking some photographic documentation of my travel and will continue to do so over the next couple of weeks.

Check out PART 2 to this blog by following the link here!

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