No More Circling Around the Block: Evolving a Rapid Ethnography and Podcasting Method to Guide Innovation in Parking Systems

James Glasnapp
Ellen Isaacs

After many years with little innovation in parking technology, many cities are now exploring new systems meant to improve the use of limited parking real estate, increase parking convenience, and raise additional revenue. We did an observational study to inform the design of one such novel parking system, and in doing so developed an ethnographic method we call REACT (Rapid Ethnographic Assessment and Communication Technique). REACT uses observational methods to uncover key findings relatively quickly and increases the impact of those findings by communicating them through a compelling video podcast. In this paper, we describe the REACT method and show how we used it to discover several key findings regarding parking practices that changed the team’s thinking about the intended customer, highlighted some critical design issues, and revealed unanticipated opportunities for new technology solutions. The video podcasts were extremely well received and ultimately affected the thinking of many more people beyond the original intended audience.