People Watching On Public Transport: Part 4


giphy-5.gifWhat effect can “someone may be watching” have on our behaviour?

On Transport NSW it states that there are “more than 10,000 CCTV cameras are used to monitor the Sydney Trains network and NSW TrainLink Intercity and regional networks. There are more than 1,340 CCTV cameras monitoring the the Sydney Metro network. Some CCTV cameras are only used to monitor and do not record footage. If footage has been recorded, you can request access to this footage.”

When commuting on public transport, I think we all are pretty aware that there are cameras there at all times. There is adequate signage to alert us, and in addition to this, most cameras are actually quite visible if you’re looking for them. As mentioned in my Part 2 blog, Transport NSW clearly states that “while on (their) property, you must NOT film or photograph surveillance cameras, security equipment”, so had to be careful when taking some of my photos for these blogs to avoid doing so. Does having surveillance on public transport affect the way we use our media devices? Well, it did deter me from taking a photograph of the cameras, but other then that, personally I don’t think there is anything I would be doing that I wouldn’t want on camera? I think it serves it’s purpose as a security functioning device, they are there to catch commuters committing crimes.

The real question I wanted to ask my peers for this project was in fact how we behave knowing other commuters are watching us. As I have mentioned multiple times in this blog series, I’m constantly observing and comparing how other people choose to use their devices on public transport so why would they not be doing the same with me?

How do we feel/act/behave when we know we are being watched?

Are you conscious of other people possibly watching your screen when you are using your device commuting?

Does it bother you?

Personally, taking note of my own actions, I felt more uncomfortable depending on how personal something on my screen was, personal as in if I was sending a text message to a friend or family member, I felt more self-conscious to be aware who “may or may not” be watching my screen compared to if i was just scrolling a facebook feed or changing my song. I also felt it depended on how close another individual was seated to me. I find when taking bus trips, the closer proximity to one another made me more aware of what people may be looking at my screen compared to most of my train rides where I have the entire seat to myself and the next person is sitting 3 rows away facing opposite direction.

Again I reached out on Twitter to ask my peers for their thoughts on this concept.

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76% of the 17 voters were conscious of other people watching their device. 24% were not really fussed at all. 2 of my peers commented which I found really great and insightful, one commenting on feeling nervous watching a TV show featuring two females kissing, nervous that commuter watching may be judging. The other commenter made a really great point to me that you can be conscious but also not bothered, and this I can relate to at most times, so when making my survey questions I took their feedback into consideration.

I asked it as seperate questions, first asking if they were conscious of other watching in which 80% (4/5 voters) voted that they were.

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I think asked if they cared what they may be watching/listening, and again 80% (4/5 voters) said they did.


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It was interesting to see that most of my fellow peers had similar opinions and thoughts as myself, however this last part of my inquiries was what I was most interested to hear opinions on as well as form my own opinion on, what is common curtesy on public transport when using our devices? How are we expected to act and use our mobile devices on public transport? Are there any rules or do we make them ourselves?

Transport NSW have a whole section on their website dedicated to “Travel Courtesy and Etiquette”

“Being courteous makes using public transport more enjoyable for everyone.”

As for the courteous travel guidelines for media devices, the only two points that apply are to:

  • Use headphones with mobile devices and keep the volume down
  • Speak quietly when on the phone


In “AMERICANS’ VIEWS ON MOBILE ETIQUETTE Chapter 3: When it is acceptable — or not — to use cellphones in public spaces”, by Lee Rainie and Kathryn Zickuhr, a 2015 American study it was interesting to see that “three-quarters (75%) of Americans say that it is generally OK to use a cellphone on public transportation. Men (79%) are more likely than women (71%) to say this was generally OK.”
“People’s cellphone use has injected itself into public spaces. This has blurred the line between private and public as often-intimate and occasionally blustering phone conversations have now become a common part of the background noise during bus rides, grocery shopping excursions, picnics, sidewalk strolls, waits in airport terminals and many other public venues.”
It was also found that younger age groups are much more likely to say phone use is acceptable, compared with older adults: 90% of young adults ages 18 to 29 say that it is generally OK to use a cellphone on public transportation vs. 54% of those ages 65 and older.

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Personally, I found that when it comes to speaking on public transport speaking quietly on the phone is polite and courteous, but ignorant loud yelling into your mobile device is definitely inconsiderate of others and 4/5 of my surveyed did agree.

Screen Shot 2019-11-10 at 10.33.07 pm.png

When it comes to playing music out loudly from the speaker of your phone I personally just think this one is common sense that it is impolite.

The last responses that I was interested to hear were what other thoughts the general behavioural/rules when commuting were.

Screen Shot 2019-11-10 at 10.40.21 pm.png


Conclusively, using our media devices on public transport is a daily activity that many of us experience together and can relate upon. Whether it is to make a long ride appear faster, or to relax and calm us down we all have our own purpose for using our device. It is important to take into consideration that at any time someone may be viewing you. Be conscious and aware of the space you inhibit in crucial as public transport is in fact PUBLIC, it is a public space where if we share following guidelines we can together enjoy harmoniously. Undergoing this media ethnography was an interesting experience, observing my own behaviours and collaborating with my peers through my survey and twitter was insightful and it was interesting to see that our opinions on most things aligned.



Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. (2015). Cellphones in public: When it is acceptable — or not — to use. [online] Available at: (2019). Travel courtesy and etiquette. [online] Available at:


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