Attending the Annual TRB meeting in January, I sat through a very interesting presentation that was given by Dr. Brian D. Taylor. Unlike most engineering science presentations which are usually cluttered with formulas and derivations, this presentation was a lot more artistic. Dr. Taylor presented a recent research project that was performed by UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies. The title of this project is “Zen in the Art of Travel Behavior: Using Visual Ethnography to Understand the Transit Experience”. This project, however, seems to be the dissertation work of Camille Fink, a PhD student. The photos included in this post are only a few examples from that repository. Hover your mouse on the photos to see the comments of the riders.
This research project attempts to capture the thoughts and observations of transit riders. To achieve this objective researchers asked study subjects to take still photos “of the things most important to them on their transit trips using their own, and now nearly ubiquitous, digital cameras, smart phones, or camera phones”. Then, study subjects were asked to upload their photos to a photo repository and add a few comments about what the photo reflects.
In transportation engineering, figuring out how humans think, behave and make decisions is really important; especially with the heightening criticality of the global situation evident by climate change and peaking of oil. However, at the same time, figuring out how humans think, behave and make decisions is obviously quite challenging – many would even say impossible. So, transportation researchers usually make assumptions about how humans behave, and as science progresses these assumptions are often revisited and improved. My own PhD dissertation is interdisciplinary, where I have integrated theories from both human factors and transportation engineering. So, I have experienced firsthand how challenging it is to figure human behavior, and I can truly appreciate and admire the project I am presenting in this post.
The research team arranged this photo repository and it is open for public view. I think they did a wonderful job and I encourage everyone reading this post to have a look. Even if you have nothing to do with transportation engineering or human behavior, I am sure you will find the photos and comments to be quite entertaining!
Here you go. Press the following link, then press “Board Here” and have fun: Zen in the Art of Travel Behavior: Using Visual Ethnography to Understand the Transit Experience.