Reading Response: Instruction Sets for Strangers

1. “The Social Life of Urban Spaces” -William Whyte

This article highlights the importance of research when designing public spaces in urban environments. Research of how the public spaces are intended to be used and on the intended users themselves. Whyte mentions, for example, that men and women interact with their environments differently. That women are more discriminating when it comes to their environment- where they sit for example. But that on average there is a higher percentage of women than men in these public areas, and if there is not that something must be wrong with the design. Different affordances of an urban space can lead to uses that were not originally intended, such as Whyte’s example of the street as a play area, and stoops and fire escapes as good viewing posts for guardians. All of these ideas need to be taken into account when designing for public spaces.

2. “Cultural Probes”- Bill Gaver, Tony Dunne, &  Elena Pacenti

This reading follows suit from “The Social Life of Urban Spaces”, talking about the importance of research on the intended user groups. The authors of this article describe a research approach that gives the users a lot of control. The researchers did not simply hand out typical questionnaires for the users, but instead provided them with a set of probes to initiate a thought process of the space design. All materials that were supplied by the researchers were very visual and personal in nature. With this particular group of participants, this style of research worked very well.


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