Welcome to English 101 by Bruce Matsunaga
Fall 99 Line # 86665
Office: LL 317
Office Hours: MW 4:00– 4:30pm, 6:00–6:30pm & by appointment.
Email: bhm@asu.edu
Phone: 965-3853 (message only)

Course Policies | Course Schedule | Assignment #1, #2, #3, #4 | Heuristics #1, #2, #3, #4

Heuristics for Assignment One

Observe (try to do this at two or three different times of the day):

Go to ________. Look around. Make a map of the space. Note on your map where people gather and/or where different groups of people congregate. Take notes about the space and your responses to it. The following questions are heuristics; that is, they can help you to take more thorough notes than you might without using them. You needn’t try to answer all of the questions, and you may think of other things that you want to note that are not suggested by the questions.

  1. What can you see from where you are positioned?
  2. How big is the place?
  3. What does it look like?
  4. Who uses this space?
  5. Describe the atmosphere--the time of day, colors, sounds, smells, feels.
  6. What is it like outside? How does that compare with inside?
  7. What kinds of people are in the place? What are they doing? What do they look like?
  8. Are there people fulfilling different roles in the place? What roles are these and what are their differences? What does each group do?
  9. Do any of the people or groups in the place interact? How do they treat each other?
  10. Does anyone look sad? happy? bored? tired? Is anyone apparently waiting for someone? How do you know?
  11. If you feel comfortable talking to people, ask them how often they come to the space, and why. Ask different groups of people what they think the space is for.
  12. Does anyone use the space for unusual purposes or for purposes that might not have occurred to you or to the designer of the space?


  1. Does this place seem pleasant or unpleasant? Is it attractive or not? Do you feel comfortable or uncomfortable here? What, precisely, about the space makes it pleasant and attractive or not? What is there about the space that makes you feel comfortable or not? Would you come here if you weren’t doing an assignment? Why?
  2. Is the behavior here organized or disorganized? Do the people here seem to be enjoying themselves or not? Does anyone look strange to you? Explain what seems strange about them.
  3. If you were to join a person or a group, which would you join? Why?


  1. How is space organized in this place? Where to people sit, move, talk, stand? Why is the space organized in this way? Is it efficient? pleasing? comfortable? something else?
  2. Who talks to whom in this space? Can you see any patterns operating in conversation between people--patterns of gender? class? age?
  3. Are some people in charge in this space while others are not? Why is this so? How do you know that these people have authority here? What are the signs of that authority? Is that authority related to this space?
  4. What behaviors are allowed here? What evidence do you have to support that assertion? What behaviors are prohibited here? What evidence do you have to support that assertion? What is "normal" activity here? How can you tell?
  5. Who is not present in this place? Why do you think that some people are not here? Are they excluded? uninvited? not interested in coming here?

Analyzing Your Notes

  1. Once you have finished your observation of the place, read over the notes you took while there. Decide which of your notes are the most interesting and informative for classmates who did not visit the place. Share your notes with someone; engage in conversation about the place. If you learn anything in this conversation that you had not thought of, make a note of it.
  2. Using your notes, write a brief description of the place and the people in it. Try to give enough details that someone who has never visited the place could recognize it if they visited it.
  3. Now write another brief description of the place, this time employing your evaluations of it. Try to make the space seem either inviting or uninviting, pleasant or unpleasant, to someone who has never been there. Compare this description to the first one you wrote up. Which do you like best? Which seems to you to better capture the place? Which do you imagine is most persuasive to someone who has never been there?
  4. Last, write up the analytic notes you made. Use this writing to try to figure out how the space you observed fits into larger social patterns. Try to figure out why certain activities are encouraged there while others are forbidden. Try to determine how the activities going on there connect (or not) to activities conducted outside that space. For example, if you visited a church, try to determine how churchgoing fits (or doesn’t fit) with other activities--playing sports, watching television, studying. Share this writing with someone who has not visited the space. Ask him or her to tell you if there is anything else he or she would like to know about the space. Ask him or her to tell you if he/she agrees with your analysis of the space and why.

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Created by Bruce Matsunaga

January 19, 2000