People Watching On Public Transport: PART 3


Why do you use your media device on public transport?

When observing others behaviour on public transport, I constantly find myself also observing my own behaviour. To start off my ethnographic work on this project, I found it only suited that I first analyse my own behaviour and interactions with my media devices on public transport.

I catch public transport at LEAST 2-4 times a day, at minimum 5 days a week. Whether it’s to get to work, uni, a social event or anything in-between. Although driving is a lovely alternative and privilege (a much quicker hassle-free option as well), it is not one I have yet. No complaints, I am so use to the routine of public transport that I actually quite enjoy it (at times).

With ongoing improvements on apps like the Opal app and Tripview, our smartphones devices naturally become our best friends when travelling on public transport. To observe how I use my devices on Public Transport, I first need to look into what I’m using the most when I’m on my device.


The Opal App makes topping up your Opal card literally the touch of a button, which is really handy when your running late for the train and can skip the ticket top-up machine.


Another app I could not live with out as a regular commuter is the Tripview App. Although Opal is now trying to incorporate many of the same features, what makes this app so handy for myself is the ability to save trips. Most of my day to day commutes are regular and repeated multiple times so to easily access bus and train times (I even get Siri suggesting them to me at the time I finish work some days) is a fantastic little tool to have. Another extremely helpful feature of this app is the up to date time schedule on trains/busses, if my bus is running late and I have an extra moment to fix my makeup, I think I’d like to know!

Immediately sitting down on a train or bus seat, unless I’m with another person, one of the first natural reactions is to reach into my bag and grab my headphones. Listening to music during my travels is an absolute must! However I did find this an interesting instinct, was it to make the time pass quicker? Or was it to zone out a little and calm me down when out in public alone?


In an article by Stephen Thompson for NPR music, he talks about when and how it’s “socially acceptable” to wear headphones in public. The article talks about how although there are times when it’s necessary and courteous to be “mentally present” and put the headphones away, we’re also allowed every now and then to “provide ourselves with enforced alone time — to put up barriers that shut out distractions, make ourselves appear less approachable to strangers, and off the world outside our own heads.”

I found this perfectly correlates with my experience with using headphones in public, or in this case more specifically headphones/listening to music on public transport. As much as pulling out my phone and music on the train to pass the 30min ride to train helps pass the time, it’s really to shut everything out and have some me time before working a crazy day in retail. The same goes for coming home on the train from work, it helps me wind down, and not think about anything else really.

I reached out to some peers on twitter, as well as creating a google survey to find out other peoples main reasons for using their devices on public transport.

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Although, I was interested to see if like me, it was to deal with a bit of anxiety when out traveling alone, it did not surprise me that the 65% of the 23 people who answered selected that using their device on public transport was to keep them entertained.

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The survey also seemed to show again similar responses, to keep entertained/ pass time, listen to music, catch up with friends, mail, messages.


For those who completed my survey I also asked how long their normal commutes were because I was interested to see if this affected how they used their device.

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Like myself, my peers also seem to be making pretty lengthy trips and what better way to kill time than to use the device in your pocket which holds everything and anything you could ever need.

In the next blog post I will continue discussing more of the questions I asked my peers in my survey. The focus of the next blog will be more on how we behave when we know we are being watched. Are you conscious if other commuters may be looking at your screen when traveling? Click the link here to view!

And if you haven’t yet already, read part 1 & part 2!

References: (2013). NPR Choice page. [online] Available at:


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