Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Routine Part 02 - Personal Schedules

Another look at the recent interviews does focus on the personal schedule. Part one on mental maps can be found here. To complement the GPS records the individual information regarding the daily program participants have set up, is an important bit to draw a more comprehensive picture.
During the interview participants are asked to note down what their schedule is on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. The daily schedule is an obvious unit, but to put it in a more meaningful context additional units have been chosen.
It turned out that this is usually the longest and most complicated bit of the interview. It seems to be not as simple to explain one’s daily schedule. There are a lot of ifs, ands, ors together with thens and woulds. In short it is presented as a dynamic string of decisions with numerous dependencies. Nevertheless there are strong elements of directory within this pool of fluent decision making. Again the major element is the working week versus the weekend. It is very easy to simplify all this information and boil it down to a few catchy phrases. Too often in the past personal schedules have been described as work, leisure, home. I don’t think this can captures the richness with which participants have talked about their personal routines. Even if on first sight a story sounds simple and organized the perception of it for the individual might be different. To illustrate this an extract of one record.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary - the daily schedule
To put it in a context the weekly time frame can help to understand that there are variations to this. In the example the changes are mainly between workweek and weekend. The focus does represent the personal situation. There are big differences between participants that have dependent children and those that have none.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary - the weekly schedule

Taking the two time frames together it represents the participants “mind map” of weekly activities. Regarding the information one might think there could be large gaps between plans and activities. But actually the two are pretty close. The “mental picture” of our routines is pretty good. Comparing this to participants’ perception of their spatial activities this is surprising. In spatial terms people often think their activities are much more flexible and they are traveling more than they actually are. This has lead to a lot of disappointment during the GPS tracking. (See UrbanDiary week 2)
By generating a schedule from the GPS data we have another record of when activities take place and are able to compare the two. They are pretty similar. The generated schedule plots data per hour and is coloured by weekday. Vertically the amount of activity at the time is shown an is derived from the number of recorded log points.
The two peaks represent the rush hour. The very light colour on top is the activities that took place on Saturdays. Sunday on the other hand is
the darkest colour on the bottom.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary - Weekly schedule generated from GPS records

Regarding the timeframe interaction with the urban form takes place an abstract version of the schedule can help. The following representation has only four units over 24 hours to simplify and make clear where activity takes place, the units are morning, midday, afternoon and evening. Activity that involves spatial interaction on weekdays is basically during the rush hour in the morning and the evening. Other than this there is little activity. The weekend pattern is different in terms that there is afternoon and evening activity, with Saturday being the most active day. (See also the detailed analysis of the daily weekly and monthly pattern of UD participants)

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary - the weekly schedule simplified

The information from the time frame of one year has not proofed to be too interesting. For most of the participants this was a too wide category. It seems not be a unit that a lot of people plan in, although in professional life this is definitely important and annual planning is key. In terms of personal activity few have had planned activities other than the expected Christmas and Easter brakes. Birthdays and holiday were among the other named activities on a yearly scale.
Regarding the city and spatial morphology longer terms are of course interesting, but the connections have probably to be found elsewhere.

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