In this assignment, you will observe peoples’ behavior around mobile devices in a public place. Spend at least two hours in observation. You should note how people are using their mobile devices; for example:

  • What devices do they have?
  • How are they carrying them?
  • Do they seem to have any problems using them?
  • What do they seem to be doing with the devices?
  • Are they doing something else while using the device (walking, talking eating)? How do they handle this situation?

You might spend the first hour noting general patterns and finding interesting ones, then the second hour watching a single pattern more closely.

For this assignment, don’t interact with the people you’re watching—simply observe them. Please don’t take photos of people during your observation, though you could take photos of the space without identifying anyone. You could also recreate a mobile device usage scenario you observed and photograph it.


Once you have collected your data, you will write a two page report on what you observed. You will also give a five minute presentation in class on the due date. For both, you should include drawings or images to help the class understand what you observed (but without photographing specific people in public, as noted above).


This assignment is worth 7% of your final grade. Both your written report (4%) and your in-class presentation (3%) should adhere to the following criteria:

  • Clear, easy to read, without grammar or spelling errors.
  • Clearly describes how the observation was conducted: when and where you went, how many people were there, what the environment was like, etc.
  • Clearly describes an interesting pattern of activity related to mobile device interaction, with specific examples.
  • Includes interesting concrete examples, sketches/images where appropriate.
(Note: thanks to Shaun Kane for permission to use some of his material for this page.)