Field Ethnography: Design

Observing a group of acquaintances studying together – or more accurately, studying in each others’ presence – reveals something about one reason why students go to libraries. Libraries are places of social reinforcement, in this case for studious behavior. The designated “quiet” zone of the reading room meant that a group of acquaintances is able to work together without being permitted to converse asides from the occasional discrete whisper. They companionably reinforce each others study habits while the larger social pressure of the library prevents them from socializing and distracting each other. Other individuals appear also to be in the library for this same reason – the social reinforcement of studious behavior.

Although the large tables in the Law Library were the area available for a group of six to study within proximity of each other, they did not seem to be all that comfortable and individuals generally seem to prefer to sit in an armchair or else at a desk on another floor. People at the tables alternated postures frequently, shifting from leaning back to leaning forward, from reading over the table to reading in their laps, draping legs over a chair arm, etc.

Perhaps six people can study together more comfortably.

Studying postures.


Fluid furniture for group study.


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