Applied Ethnographic Research Methods
The PSRG combines various ethnographic research methods to deepen the understanding of the cultural relationships between people and public places. We employ methods of interviewing the users of public space that go beyond the simple opinion survey to elicit significant meanings and values attached to these places. The PSRG has been a leader in the use of Rapid Ethnographic Assessment Procedure (REAP), a rapid data-gathering methodology pioneered by the National Park Service. REAPs involve several research techniques used together over a short interval of time, including interviews, focus groups, participant observation, and transect walks. The group has devised useful ways of synthesizing the findings of the different research methods and presenting them in easily read charts.
The PSRG has applied the rich description of traditional ethnography to reporting on uses and values of public spaces. By describing the social life of parks and plazas as well as reporting the summary results of interview and survey data, the group brings the meaning of individual and group experience of places to life within the text of an article or technical report.
Qualitative Data Analysis
The PSRG has been creative in using statistical computer software to analyze large amounts of qualitative interview data. For user studies of three New York City parks, the group faced the challenge of making sense of a large body of qualitative data accumulated from hundreds of interviews taken over the course of a year. The PSRG devised a process of coding open-ended interview responses and using the statistics software to create a fine-grained portrait of how cultural relationships between people and parks vary with ethnicity, social class, and user constituency (e.g., runner vs. picnicker vs. bird-watcher).