I devised the first activity of Stowe Framework and detailed the results of the first alpha test here. In the Area Survey, the participants are asked to take a short walk around an area of E17 and take photographs of typography (or lettering, as I described it) and remember where they took them. When they returned home, they choose five examples of lettering, mark the examples’ positions on a map of Walthamstow and answer some questions. One purpose of the activity was to add more examples to the photo archive. More than that, the underlying motive is to enable the participants to start thinking about how they undertake the challenge. In asking them to submit only five examples to me, they curate their experience rather than unthinkingly responding.
I have copied out the questions with my reasons for asking:
Looking at your photos, did you start to favour certain types of lettering? Can you guess why that might have been?
Here, I want the participants to notice patterns about their preferences and a reason for their bias. For example, a couple of remaining ghost signs feature advertisements for printing presses and typewriters, and the owner of a local publisher might find these fascinating. I intend these to lead to further qualitative research between myself and the participant.
Did you stick to a route, or did you let yourself wander? Did anything draw you off your expected route? What was it?
I am curious about the participant’s mindset: do they start with a rigid plan, or do they wander? How they react to unexpected stimuli? The questions are deliberately broken down into easy clauses to allow comprehension by many people.
Did you find the lettering you were expecting? What surprised you?
Like the questions above, I want to understand the participant’s preconceptions and if they are open to being challenged.
What do you think the lettering tells you about the area you surveyed? What kind of lettering would you like to see more of in E17?
Now, I am eliciting their opinion of what the lettering says about their area rather than speculating, and giving them a chance to shape the area in the future.