Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Field Observation
Memorial Library InfoLab 02/17/04(Wisc Primary) 5:30pm-6:30pm
The Memorial Library InfoLab has 21 Macs, and 81 Pcs, one of which is allowed only for printing, therefore I did not count it as one of the general computers in the room. Of the 21 Macs, 5 of them have no chairs, but they were still counted, as they were general purpose (mainly for stop-and-go email checking, I assume). It also has a copy machine and a vending machine for Zips, CD-RW, etc. Although not busy during most of my observation, the copy machine became quite busy and had a waiting line for the last few minutes or so. There were also dehumidifiers placed In the center of the isles placed there for the sole purpose of making me, and others I am sure, trip.
Generally speaking, the Infolab is pretty solemn, and apparently it is preferred that it stay that way, as I received glares when using an inside voice to talk to a friend. During the hour, not a single cell phone was heard, as cell phones are not allowed in the lab. It is likely that phones were set on vibrate. Food, drink, and game playing are also prohibited, but, as one might assume, there were many rebels drinking diet coke and playing games. There is very little interaction and talking amongst users, unless it is for assistance on printers, which are usually not functioning.
Many people stayed for the entire hour or close to it, while others stayed for an average of 20 minutes or so, just enough time to check emails and write replies.
Among the activities that people were involved in, email was definitely the most popular, with word processing and research/online classes running second. Email was quite often on Wiscmail, with very few yahoo and hotmail users, as one might expect. Many people were doing homework on spreadsheets or on WebCT. In regards to instant messaging, contrary to what I had assumed, there were no AIM or Trillian users. All messaging (only about four or five users) was on Yahoo, MSN, or some strange videoconference/text message system (maybe it was the new updated AIM?) Despite the “No game playing” signs in the lab, there were people playing multiplayer games, like “party poker” as well as so Japanese games, solitaire, and of course, one snood player. Other people in the lab were reading the news, doing programming, or shopping. Only about four people listened to headsets while on computers.
Stats:
6:00 – 42 people, 2/21 Macs, 40/80 PC’s.
6:15 - 57 people, 3/21 Mac users, 54/80 PC’s.
6:30 - 61 people, 6/21 Mac users, 55/80 PC’s.
The most entertaining observation I made during the fieldwork was a monitor that had a split screen with two windows. One of them was a picture of John Kerry, and the other was a picture or Tori Spelling. Above them were the words “Bad Plastic Surgery.”

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