Franklin Square Field Research

Field Research

Setting: March 11, 2014. Franklin Square (200 N 6th St, Philadelphia, PA 19102), 4:20 PM and 60° Sunny

There are a few advertisements for the actual park itself and its attractions. There are two entrances that come from Race street and each one has a big Franklin Square sign right as you enter. In the actual park, there are a few board stands that talks about the history of Franklin Square and while others are advertisements for their burger stand, mini golf, and carousel. The area itself would seem secluded as it is surrounded by the I-95 highway and the big roads that lead up to the Ben Franklin Bridge. However, on this day, there were a lot of adults, teens, and kids in the park. The park includes a playground for kids, but outside of mini golf, there isn’t much to do in terms of sponsored activities by the park. Along with the lack of activities, on nice days such as this, it is enticing for someone to just sit on a bench or under a tree and just relax as they surf their phones. In my observations, nice weather promotes camera use and the inevitable idle time encourages talking on the phone.


  • There were a lot of white and black, ranging from ages 30 to 50, adults at the parks with their kids, or whom I assume to be their kids.
  • A picnic table is occupied by two teenage kids, one white male who is teaching the Hispanic female with a notebook laid flat while the female has a phone in her left hand.
  • A black teenager is taking a photo of his Arab friend while she posing in front of a bench with the fountain in the background.
  • A group of high schoolers, a mixed group that contains whites, blacks, Asians, and Arabs, listens to music through one of the teenager’s phone blasting out on its speakers.
  • White joggers, middle aged, run through the park with ear buds in their ears and their music players attached on their arms.
  • Parents are playing/watching what seems to be their kids at the playground, some of the parents are taking pictures of their kids.
  • One black father, wearing jeans and a black t-shirt, is walking his son with one hand and is on the phone with the other.
  • Black, white and Asian parents are roaming the park with strollers
  • Ladies having handbags by their waist, while only a few males carry a bag.
  • A black father asks his female friend to take a picture of him having his son sit on his shoulders.
  • The high schoolers playing on the field leaves their coats and bags on a table, unwatched. Don’t see any phones left on the table.
  • A white female teenager sits on a bench with crutches besides her. Left foot bandaged.
  • Heavy man enters the park on an automated wheel chair, positions himself in front of a bench and stares at the fountain in front of him.
  • Two black males both look to be over 50, exchange words while sitting on a bench, with one talking as he stares at his phone.
  • A black father carries his daughter’s schoolbag and coast as they leave the park holding hands
  • One man/father with a tattoo on his left arm has a black watch on his left wrist; he takes out his phone from his left pocket briefly and puts it in his right pocket. His sleeve covers most of the tattoo.
  • A man in a black hoodie walks into the park talking on the phone, stops to look at the fountain, and then continues through the park while on the phone.
  • Two ladies, wearing sun dresses, are sitting on a picnic table. One gets up and stands in front of the table; her friend gets up and takes a pic of her while she poses.
  • A black father, with two kids beside him, leaves the park while checking his phone; he never looks up or at the kids.
  • A white woman in a business casual outfit walks through the park with earbuds on
  • Two white males in t-shirts and shorts are stretching while one has an earbud in one ear.
  • The same lady who took the pic of her friend is now taking a pic of two kids standing right in front of the fountain; the kids are associated with her. She checks the phone after the pic was taken for a few minutes then calls her friend over to also take a pic, assuming to allow her to have her own copy. The friend has the two girls get close and then finally snaps it.
  • One Asian mother talks on her phone while her baby is hanging by her chest with a chest strap.
  • A white lady in a coat and blue pants with shades on passes by and checks her phone for a second before putting it away. Maybe, she checked the time.
  • A security guard that works at the park checks his phone as he patrols.
  • Two Asian teens, one male and one female, enter the park. The female holds the phone the entire time. Once they sat down, she proceeded to check it for a minute, before leaving it idle in her hand again. Every few minutes, she would check her phone. The two teens would converse while she’s not on the phone.
  • A white kid, doesn’t seem to be older than ten, rides a scooter with a helmet on as his father watches from a bench.
  • Two white teens enter the park with cameras handing by their necks do not take any photos, but one is on his phone the entire time as he walks through the park.
  • An Asian male, seems to be in his twenties, walks through park with buds on that is connected to the phone in his hand… looks like he changed a song when he entered the center of the park.
  • A white female jogger waits for a friend and during that time, she adjusts her watch. Once her friend arrives, another jogger, she begins jogging again and adjusts her watch one more time.
  • As the kid on the scooter rides around the fountain yelling “Daddy” in a casual manner, his father records his son on the phone.
  • An Asian teen sits next to a table by me alone and begins using his phone. It has been 10 minutes; he has not looked up yet.
  • All dog walkers have not pulled out their phones, too occupied?
  • The kid parks his scooter on the grass everytime he stops to talk to his father. He makes a truck-backing-up sound whenever he reverses the scooter off the grass.
  • First biker I saw was at 5:53PM
  • A man walking his dog has one earbud in
  • Strollers are often left unoccupied when child is not near it. Parents are willingly to leave it if the child is playing in a location away from it and parent chooses to play too.

Possible Social Justice Design

Franklin Square is a place where mobile media is used for leisure. I want to design an app/device that have its users not feel obligated to use. The observations I made at the park shows me parents and teens are more prone to be in a park and mainly use their phones for music, texting/talking on the phone, or as a camera. I want to enhance users experiences by giving them something to do that makes their leisure time that much more enjoyable, though I’m still unclear as to what it is.

One very interesting observation I made that I did not cover in its entirety is the difference between how parents use mobile media compared to dog walkers in the park. It is unsettling to see how occupied some parents seem to be on their phone while their kid is wandering around. Dog owners seem to be much more careful when walking their dogs as I did not see a single phone from any of them. I did see one dog owner have an earbud on, but he left one ear unplugged to possibly hear any disturbances. I asked my friend that happened to walk her dog the same day I was at the park about it, she said “Personally I could never be on the phone and walk. I constantly have to keep an eye on her because I don’t know what she’s gonna eat off the ground and even have to keep an eye on other people around especially other dogs. She’s not very friendly”. She continues to say her dog “is like my child so I can’t even imagine having actual children running around without leashes on and being on the phone.”

There is something to be said when we watch our dogs more carefully than our own kids. If I can get a device that can make parents focus more on their kids or make dog owners easier, then there wouldn’t be this type of different interaction. How do I make leisure time more fun instead of making it seem like a chore? That is where I need the basis of my app will arise from.


One thought on “Franklin Square Field Research”

  1. There seem to be two different ideas that come out of your field research report. One is the idea of enhancing leisure time, which I am a big fan of. Research from the field of leisure studies many be a useful jumping off point for that. The other is about parents paying more attention to their kids (vis-á-vis dog owners who are more attentive to their charges in your observation). For that the book “The Parent App” by Lynn Schofield Clark may be useful to provide theoretical and empirical background.

    It’s not clear to me yet, and I know you are still working on it, how to, or if you can, combine the two ideas. One thing that might help is getting more insight from parents on why they might use their phones so much while their kids are playing in the park (are they trying to get work done while spending “quality time” with their kids? are they trying to give the children the opportunity to have more freedom in a bounded area? or are they just being bad parents and ignoring their children?). Background into their logic might help you question your own underlying presumptions or support a particular type of design.

    One thing that strikes me in reading this that you mention there aren’t many official activities in Franklin Park besides the mini golf. Is there a way you could somehow incorporate the mobile devices into a park-wide activity? Maybe one that would help bring children and parents together in particular? The literature on Alternate Reality Games might be a good place to start unpacking what that would look like. There are also lots of projects, like urban annotation or open-air museums, that people have used to transform peoples’ experiences of space that might provide some insightful ideas. Regardless of the approach you will need to be clear on the social justice aspect of the design. It is certainly possible to tied leisure to social justice (Mary Flanagan’s book “Critical Play” talks about this, for instance), but make sure you are clear on what you mean when you say the app is a social justice app.

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