Assignment3 (ethnographic research)


My Winter sub-theme is fireplaces!

Interviewing people for the assignment gave me lots of insight on this topic that never would have occurred to me otherwise! I tried to talk to different people in order to get as unbiased information as possible.

The first person I talked to was Ashley, a girl I approached in the Rapson Hall courtyard. I had her in a couple of classes but besides that we didn't talk much.
-What was the last experience you had with a fireplace? She looked at one. The one in her living room at her parent's house. She likes to sit by it but it hasn't been on much yet because it wasn't cold out the last time she went home. She doesn't turn it on herself because she can't figure it out, not intuitive.
-Both fireplaces in her home are gas. She likes gas fireplaces because they still look really nice. But they don't smell like real fireplaces, or look as pretty and classic. misses authenticity. likes fake wood smelling candles.
-Says she will sometimes take the fireplace for granted, especially her gas ones because it is much more simple than the wood ones, requires less effort.
-Still uses it the same, has a mantle with candles, a bench in front for seating when couches are full, hang stockings from it.
-She would guess that the main differences would be in the interactions with the fireplace, because there is a social factor in preparing a wood burning fireplace vs. just flipping a switch.
-Barely ever use downstairs fireplace. Main gathering spot is one in living room. Most-used space in house. Open presents and stockings, reading, talking, watching tv, eating at bar area by it. Whole living room is centered around it.
-Without it her family wouldn't have central area for meeting, it would be noticeably different in comfort level without one. Even when its not on, it still looks nice and completes the room.
-Doesnt like how hard it is to figure out how to use, otherwise she'd use it more. Really confusing, too many buttons. Also have to be cautious about leaving it on too long.
-Says a lot of homes don't even necessarily need the fireplace, many don't have one. Just adds that next level of comfort and traditon.

The second was my neighbor down the street from my parent's house. I chose to interview him because he has an older house with a wood fireplace with rooms that have been renovated to include a gas fireplace. He has had a lot of experience with both so I thought he would be able to provide me with good information. Below are images of his fireplaces and the interview responses.
-Memories around fireplace? Last winter both of my kids were over and I played games with them in the living room in front of the fireplace. chess, battleship
-Everyone loves the warmth and the heat
-wood: doesnt like cleaning glass. good for safety but has to clean frequently. also has to haul wood inside, which can make a mess or bang up the inside of the house. has to find it and store in a dry place which is sometimes hard. There is also buildup in the "flue area piping" in a real fireplace w/chimney. Chimney maintenance can be hard, clay tile can crack. Likes that he can shut glass safety doors with fire on and leave it on even overnight.
-Doesn't like the current placement. It works as far as having guests over and social or family gathering, but for practicality would rather have it in basement. Since heat rises, would want it in coldest part of the house and then it would help heat rest of house. Because currently, the top floor gets very hot when the wood fireplace is on in main level living room.
-feels warm, safe, inviting
-biggest differences: gas/electric is easier. they also look more realistic nowadays. less expensive than wood fireplaces. A lot safer. Cost of installation is cheaper. much more convenient, don't have to go through so much preparation just flick a switch
-people choose to sit in front of his wood fireplace first. Its more work to use, but because of that it feels like more of a special occasion when it is on.
-1 wood fireplace would equal the cost of a couple of gas fireplaces.
-Most new houses have gas fireplaces because of the simplicity and versatile placement opportunities. Although there are still wood fireplaces in higher end home. Becomes a part of the aesthetic and ambiance rather than heat source.
-When choosing between his wood one and gas one, it is mostly dependent on the room itself. Uses wood one to get the "cozy feelings" effect, whereas the gas one is used mostly for heating because it is in a 3 season room with lots of windows.
-Overall consensus: fireplaces are inviting. People are always going to be attracted to them and the demand will always be there, even if need is more aesthetic than purposeful. "As long as you got a fireplace and it's warm, that's what people are looking for."
wood fireplace pdes.jpg
gas fireplace pdes.jpg

The last person I interviewed was Elise, another acquaintance from a class.
-memories associated: when little, grandparents had fireplace in living room, they would all gather at the central location to social. christmases and holidays. memory of everyone being together, good times. Very big, connected to the chimney. all wood one, pile of wood on right side, tools all on left side. brick bottom and walls were also brick so it all flowed together nicely. more homey.
-opened up xmas presents there, thanksgiving would watch football there and fireplace was always on. grandpa would make fire, always watch him do that.
-what kind of feelings: nostalgic, happy, warm inside.
-Don't like fake fireplaces. If you have a fireplace go all out. Likes the idea of a fireplaces. Fake fireplace are ones that don't have real fire, don't need wood for. Likes the smell of real fireplaces.
-Yule log video: NO. just silly and pointless. cheesy. give none of the same effects. not warm or nostalgic.
-feel fine about gas ones with switch. likes characteristics of wood burning ones the best. says gas ones are not as good but still cleaner, easier, more modern.
-What would world be like w/o fireplaces. wouldnt affect world too much. back in the day when people needed them to stay warm they were a lot more necessary, but in this day we all have indoor heating so it's more of a socializing thing to connect with people. Decorative.
-in the future, in her own home, would want an old fashioned fireplace if she has the means. would only be used on special occasions.

I observed the lobby area of the new rec center addition. One of the key features is a huge fireplace on the righthand side of the entrance. I sat for a while to watch and listen to people in those areas. I heard someone say to her friend, "I love to study here because of the fireplace". People seem to gravitate towards the spots closest to the fireplace, whether alone or not. One person is sleeping in one of the big chairs next to it. Interestingly, there are more people in the seating area across the lobby with tables and chairs, rather than the fireplace area. This could be because the place across the room seems to be better suited for studying. There are groups of people sitting at the tables talking, with their laptops out. Different furniture: chairs and tables. Whereas the fireplace side has larger, more comfortable seating choices and people seem to be there for relaxation purposes rather than studying. Seems much quieter on side with fireplace, which could be why groups choose to go to the tables on the other side of the lobby. The feeling that you have to be calmer or quieter by fireplace could be what is dictating this dynamic.

For the experience part, I decided to meet with a friend in the same location I chose to observe people, which was in the lobby area of the new rec center. It was a friend that I hadn't seen in a while, so I suggested that we meet there and have our conversation on one of the chairs in front of the fireplace. After sitting there for a while, we moved to a different location further away from the fireplace to see how things changed. We found ourselves wanting to move back to our original spot by the fire! It definitely felt more intimate to be near the fireplace, even though the surrounding noises and voice levels were just as loud in both locations.

After my interviews and observations, I noticed a few areas of improvement regarding fireplaces: gas ones can be confusing to manipulate, yule log videos are unrealistic and cheesy, wood fireplaces are more expensive and difficult to clean, gas fireplaces lack the smells of real ones, wood ones are significantly more work to install and use. It was also important to note that everyone mentioned feelings of warmth, togetherness, and cozy ambiance when asked how they would describe fireplaces. Therefore, any solutions that are developed must still retain these crucial aspects. My problem statement is as follows: Non-wood fireplace users need a way to create a fire within their home that is as realistic as possible because they would like to take advantage of modern technology while still maintaining the authenticity of real fireplaces.

This is an image of my bug list so far!


Looks like you gathered some good information from the people you interviewed about what they liked and didn't like about fireplaces. I wish you would have synthesized this information a little before you blogged it. Seemed like you copied the post right from your notes and there were themes and observations repeated throughout your post. (Multiple places you mention that gas fireplaces are confusing)

You talk about the dynamic between the two seating areas in the rec center (next to the fireplace and away from it). This is great! But put the pictures in a place that make sense for me to follow the story in your blog! I had to scroll down and then come back up to finish reading it.

Highlighting your problem statements would help finish up the post cleanly.

I liked the lessons you learned throughout your post. Many of the people you interviewed didn't like the complexity and "static" features of gas fireplaces. Summarizing these points at the end would help bring your post home.

My sub-theme was also fireplaces and I found some of the similar findings you did! My brainstorm which I did tonight was around how to make gas fireplaces more interactive. I thought it went pretty well!

Your interviews are very thorough! Pulling people from different age groups is definitely a good tactic for your topic of fireplaces. I would also suggest condensing the information and pulling out some of the main things from each. The format was a little difficult to read; using complete sentences, avoiding word abbreviations, and displaying consistency throughout the bulleted list would make the information stand out more. As for your blog design, I would suggest a lower contrast between the text and background - white on black with so many small words was giving me a bit of a headache.

Your observation of fireplaces was great! It would have made your research more insightful if you maybe chose a different fireplace to experience (possibly the one in Coffman?). I would encourage you to come up with 2 or 3 more problem statements. It seemed like there were many different problems discovered in your interviews (wood for the fireplace is messy in the house, etc). Use these to create more problem statements!

Overall, the information you gathered was very informative, and I think you got a lot of information that will be great for the next assignment.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Hannah Hill published on November 11, 2013 11:20 AM.

Assignment2 (Mind maps and silliness!) was the previous entry in this blog.

Assignment4 (Brainstorming!) is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.