Historical Social Research

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Cornelia Thierbach & Alexandra Lorenz: Exploring the Orientation in Space. Mixing Focused Ethnography and Surveys in Social Experiment [Abstract]

This paper discusses how focused ethnography and surveys can be mixed within a social experiment in order to explore orientation in space as a social process (and not only as a cognitive one) and to examine the role maps have during this process. Our research design is based on a three-step interdisciplinary methodology, mixing cartographic methods with surveys and ethnography: (1) Cartographers developed maps for several paths through a Berlin university building from the ground floor (starting point) to the roof-top (finish). (2) Between 2009 and 2013, a social experiment was set up during five social events that drew lots of visitors. Volunteers first answered a questionnaire and then participated in a race from the starting point to the finish, using a randomly assigned map and a randomly assigned route (factorial design without control group). At the finish area, respondents answered another set of survey questions and evaluated the assigned maps. (3) Along the selected routes, members of the research team conducted focused ethnography in order to observe interaction among respondents, between other people, the map and the built environment. Comparing these various data sources, we will discuss what methods are suitable to find answers to our research questions, which are among others: How does orientation work? What strategies do people use? What should maps for (indoor) navigation look like in order to satisfy user’s needs? Afterwards we will present selected results.

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