Understanding people is the core of Civic View. 

That means getting out in the neighborhood and talking to the folks who can best answer your questions. But have you ever heard the phrase, “Garbage in; garbage out?” It means that no matter how great your technology is, if you are working with bad data, you’ll get bad results.

To get good data, you need good data collection. This is why design research is a key component of the system. Over the course of a year, Civic View has experimented with various ways to better understand how people experience public space. We've put together a methodology for collecting meaningful qualitative and biometric data, with all the documentation you'll need to get off the ground. 

Our process starts with a basic design research method called the Walkabout. You’ll pair up with a participant, or a person whom you are interested in getting to know more about, as they lead you around their neighborhood and describe their experiences.  

(Do you have questions about finding or recruiting participants? Send them here)

As you work with your participant you will be capturing several streams of data, all of which are tied to time. 




Video is a core component of the Civic View system, as it provides a window into the actual environment of the participant. When we think about place-based data, we’e often thinking about maps. While maps are incredibly important, they’re not descriptive enough. It’s hard to imagine the feel of a neighborhood from an overhead view.

However, there are drawbacks to using video in research. Namely, there are very few ways to summarize the content, and video analysis takes time and human resources. Our method takes this into account and aims to automate this process whenever possible. 

Biometric Data

It’s not easy to always express how we feel. However, taking a reading of our heart rate, or the moisture on our skin can reveal emotions we may not otherwise be able to articulate. By including these readings in the data, you can get a clearer sense of the affect of an area, such as whether elements of a neighborhood are contributing to a participant’s anxiety levels. 

Biometric readings are an experimental aspect of the Civic View system, as the hardware can be difficult to access and use. Currently we suggest using the BITalino medical microcontroller board, and have laid out a guide for using the device. 


GPS is a core component of the system and, along with time, is the data that ensures a participant’s experiences can be communicated in a scalable way. Luckily, this is one of the easiest types of data to capture. You’ll need a smart phone and a GPS app. We recommend Moves—not only is it free, but it is also one of the best apps for exporting GPS data.

Qualitative Data

Qualitative data is captured by listening to the stories and experiences that participants share as they walk through their communities. Civic View has two different ways to capture qualitative data. 

  • Video Transcription
    • During the Walkabout, you will interview participants through conversation. Later, this audio will be transcribed and coded for keywords and important phrases. 
  • Illustrative Mapping
    • Sometimes it’s easier to draw a story then say it aloud. We have participants draw out their experiences on a map of the area, using visual and written language to describe how they feel. 

Qualitative data brings meaning to the context created by video, and clarity to the biometric data. Additionally, through transcription and analysis, this data can be used by applications or mapping programs to provide high level insight into how multiple people view one area.