This was a posting from the yahoo group Ryan and I are in.. it was an email written in reply to someone asking a question for help with ways to observe people in an 'atmosphere'... I thought this may be useful for the 5/3 observations...
This is an interesting project and here are some ideas about how you and your students could approach it.
Declare your participation as documentarians/ethnographers on the invitation.
Don't overcrowd the space with researchers.
Set up a stationary video camera to capture faces as people first enter the space.
Have a good microphone on the camera and leave it running to capture snippets of conversations that take place.
Observe how people walk around the space, how they gesture when walking around and thinking about how they might live here.
Be a friendly member of the crowd. Mingle.
Ask permission to record and take pictures when in one-on-one or small group conversations.
Carry a tape recorder and a still camera to capture interviews and photos of the people you talk to.
Know who you are talking with, architect, artist, interior designer, friends, family of the designers etc. This will help you interpret what they say.
One or two open questions could give you enough. Probe on the interesting comments. Try to recognize and capture the lifestyle context that may be important to the designers. Be flexible. Don't ask everyone the same questions. Work off of what they say to understand their perspective as deeply as you can
Write out assumptions you have about how you expect people to answer the open questions that you decide on.
Examples: It depends on what it costs, it depends on where it is, it depends on where I end up working...things like this could be answers to "how long do you think you would stay." Listen intently for answers you don't expect.
Can you imagine living in a space like this?
(Whether they do or they don't see the space as something for them what they say will be valuable. Listen for clues as to when it might be suitable i.e. while a medical student, just married, single adult, retired etc.)
(Can you (you and your team of researchers) imagine living in a space like this? This will bring out your biases)
If not why not?
Do you know someone who this space would be perfect for? Who and why?
If so, tell me what you envision.
If you lived in a place like this (in downtown X?) what would it say about you?
How is it different than where you live now?
Would you be giving any part of your lifestyle up to live in a space like this?
How would you arrange your furniture? Your bed, your TV?
Who would you invite to visit?
Would you have parties here?
Do you have pets? If so, would you have them here?
How long do you think you would live in a space like this?
Would you want to choose the color scheme?