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An approach to conducting field research in an unobtrusive manner
Minimizing your impact can be a great way to maximize your discoveries. In situations where you cannot speak directly with people, or do not want to interrupt the flow of their activities, being a fly on the wall has its advantages.
You’ll come to find that careful, unobtrusive observation provides valuable insight you cannot otherwise obtain. When left to their own devices, people are likely to say or do things that they’re not aware of and would not be able to articulate, even if prompted. If you can watch and listen without interfering, you have a chance to capture people’s natural behavior. Remember to pay careful attention to people’s tasks and workflow, taking note of the information, tools, and people they rely upon to do what they do. Also be mindful of the surrounding environment, understanding that peripheral objects, sounds, and people may affect outcomes.