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Third Place Ethnography

A Third Place is a place that we frequent that is not home or work, but some environment that enables us to find flow, recharge, and renew. In this project, I visited Pease Park and Austin Central Library to understand what made them a third place for Austin residents.


Research Goal and Process


My goal is understand what makes the places a Third Place, why, how via observation and interviews.


I went through the steps blow to prepare and conduct this project.

  • Desktop Research

  • Field Study Logistics Preparation

  • Field Study

  • Synthesis and Analysis

I browsed Pease Park and Austin Central Library's websites to have more knowledge about them before going to the field. I prepared interview script with questions and blank space that I use during talking to people. With other logistics including shot list, notebook, pen, camera are all ready, I started off field study.


Notes from field study



Field Study - Pease Park

Pease park is an urban park in central Austin, Texas. Paralleling Shoal Creek west of downtown. It is frequented by people living nearby.


I visited Pease Park in a warm, sunny afternoon. Many people are enjoying them time here. They are here to walk dogs, work out, play with children, play basketball, sit and talk with friends, jog, meditation, play guitar, and etc.





Lani was lying down a carpet, playing with her dog hotpot when I came here.


She used to live in the hill and came here everyday. Her current place is ten minutes away from here. She still comes here two or three times every week. Usually, she drives and parks her car aside the road, and comes here, just being laid back. She likes this place a lot, but just wish there are more grass, "nice grass," she laughed. But it is still a nice place to recharge herself.


Lani's work gives her very a flexible schedule. Sometimes their work is hectic if there are a lot of casting, performance, and video editing going on. In other times, she gets more free time.


Apart from coming here to walk her dog or just lies down to relax, she also comes here to work with her laptop and hotspot on. Today, her original plan was going to the Redbud park. Unfortunately, it was closed due to water contamination.


I noticed that he was practicing guitar.



He has stayed here for one hour and will stay till the sunset. He likes to come to this park to relax, and enjoy the outside. His place is close to this park, it is a ten minutes drive from his place to the park. He said this place is really nice for doing creative work. He plays guitar for 2 years and has a show coming up.


He came with his friend today. His friend came here everyday for working out and introduced this place to him. Sometimes he came here with his girlfriend or with other friends to play guitars, walk his friend's dog or jog, and stays for a couple hours. He came here a few time a week. If not, then he might stays in his backyard.


He waved his hand to me when I was approaching. He was here for meditation. I saw him set up his swing.



He has been doing Yoga, Qigong, and meditation for two years. Since the first time he heard of this park from his Qigong class, he always comes here alone, staying for one to three hours. He came here today before going to his Qigong class. This place is in a walking distance from his Qigong class.


The last time he was here was for doing Yoga. Sometime he also goes to Walnut Creek Trail for hiking if he is not coming to Pease Park.


He enjoys his time here getting close to the nature. He said he loves here.


When I was on my way to leave and go to my next stop, Daniel greeted to me. We talked for a half hour till I have to leave to catch my bus.



He came here to play guitar, sometimes he also play ukelele. He lives in west campus to it is very convenient for Daniel to come here. He comes here two or three times a week, sometimes even every night. He can always find a seat here under shadow. It is a nice place to go during Austin's summer.


Sometimes he comes here alone, like today, sometimes he comes with his girlfriend. Apart from playing guitar and ukelele, he also walks and listens to podcast in the park. He mentioned that he listens classical guitar, and a podcast illustrating Bible. The host is from Greek, his lectures explained missing parts in English version.


Daniel also gave me his business card, asking me to check his music. He is also interested in Dao and Zen, he reads Tao Te Ching and loves the wisdom in it.






Field Study - Austin Central Library


It was a weekday evening when I came here. The whole library was quiet. Many people were working on their laptop. Some of them are reading, playing with children in children area. There are a lot of areas for people to sit, read, and enjoy the view outside.




I met María near a bookshelf. She is reading books to prepare for her upcoming wedding. I asked her if she is excited, she said they have been together for a long time, this time, it is just to have a ceremony.



She lives fifty minutes away from Austin Central Library and usually comes here a few times at night on weekday or weekend morning. Sometimes she is here alone, sometimes she comes with her son. Her son is in high-school. Usually when they come, her son goes to third floor's teen space. They usually stay here for two or three hours.


The last time she came was six weeks ago for checking books for her son. She checked out some graphic books, comic books, and sci-fiction books. If she does not come to this library, she sometimes goes to a coffee shop near to her place, or a dog park to spend her time.


She has been living in Austin for seven years and she went to another library before Austin Central Library was opened two years ago. She likes Austin Central Library because it is new and quiet, and it has a lot of materials for different culture.



I noticed that she sits there alone, so I came to her and said Hi.


Ashley was reading Brothers Grimm's fairytales. She told me she likes to check out different books every time when she come here. Last time she came was two weeks ago, she was here reading non-fiction sociology books after having dinner nearby. This week, since it is approaching the Halloween, she would like to check fairytales. These stories are short but meaningful, sometimes even dark.


She works at a coffee shop, produces her music, and travels around this country. Ashley said Austin Central library is her favorite one. It that has art on each floors, and they are stimulating. She likes the roof on the sixth floor a lot. She was reading there last time. The view is amazing. Although her place is 30 minutes away from this Library, and she mentioned that there are other libraries closer to her house, she still come here two or three times every month. "It's like a special trip, like a treat for myself." She said so.


Ashley said she really appreciate this city having such a beautiful place available, accessible for us. And she likes Austin a lot because here is progressive and open-minded. She came from Alabama and has been living in Austin for a year. One reason she chose to come here is because the art and music atmosphere this city has, she can find a lot of musician community here.


She also mentioned that she has an upcoming trip with her sister to California and UK. It would be the first time she travels abroad. We were talking for around forty minutes till it was close to the library's closing time. She still got a bit time to read fairytales when I left.





Summary

Pease Park and Austin Central Library provide the environment for people to stay, relax, and recharge themselves. They are close to outside and nature, have a huge amount of seating capacity to rest, always available and accessible, making them a third place.







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