Ethnographic-Oriented Study of ASU Field Use

During this week, I conducted an informal study of the use of the large athletic field on ASU campus. From Tuesday through Saturday, I would take a picture of the athletic field every time I passed by there in order to document the amount of activity at the field. Obviously, because of the small sample size, this study is imperfect, but I think there were some interesting developments.

My starting assumption was that, due to the heat, there would not be a lot of activity taking place on the field during the day. For anyone who has to go outside this time of year, it’s plainly obvious that playing sports outside for an hour is not desirable.

Below: field at 2:44 pm on Tuesday

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Below: field at 11:34 am on Friday

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Generally, people began to arrive at the field around 5-6 pm. This is around the same time that the sun is setting, which results in a noticeable drop in temperature to a much more manageable level.

Below: field at 5:47 pm on Wednesday

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Below: field at 6:09 pm on Friday

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However, I began to consider that the heat might not be the only contributing factor to the presence of people. For example, on Wednesday the sky was overcast and it was unseasonably cool. Despite this, the field remained empty for most of the day, with people only showing up close to 5pm.

It could be that, having already established schedules around what the heat would likely be, many students did not divert from their exercise plans even when the weather allowed it. It is also likely that schedule diversions are especially discouraged for field activities, which are largely team sports (soccer, baseball, volleyball), which require a large number of people to show up at the same time. This could be an additional reason why activity increases in the evening, since that is when most classes are over and the majority of students will be available to play sports.

Below: field at 9:26 am on Wednesday

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Below: field at 4:46 pm on Wednesday

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This study was also disrupted by the military, which on Thursday landed a couple of helicopters on the field in a patriotic / recruitment / information event. The event lured non-exercising students into the field, and also likely disrupted any sports activity that would have been going on had the helicopters not been there. In addition, some tents set up on Friday did enter field space, but didn’t seem to have an as disruptive effect on the exercisers.

Below: intrigued by the presence of helicopters on Thursday, students ignore the heat and wander openly into the field

2015-09-10 16.28 helicopter

Below: field at 5:17pm on Friday.

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The last issue affecting the use of the field is availability. Since the heat and class schedules pushes many of the sport activities to the evening or later, the use of the field lights is invaluable in allowing the students to continue their exercise activity at night. Of all the times documented, the field was most crowded after 9 pm on Thursday. There was such a large group, in fact, that there was even a scheduled police presence (in the form of a bicycle cop, who was nice enough to answer a few questions) stationed by the field in order to prevent any fights or other mischief that could result from large groupings of people.

However, on the weekends the field lights are not turned on, so anyone who wants to use the field must schedule their time wisely to avoid the intense heat of midday or the unplayable conditions at night. Despite the darkness, there were some people using the field at night on Saturday, but it was not many, and there were no large teams or groups of people like there had been on the Thursday.

Below: field at 9:22 on Thursday

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Below: field at 7:13 on Saturday. It wasn’t actually quite as dark as it looks in this picture, but it was still fairly hard to see and there were not as many people using the field. Since it was only a little after 7, I did ask some of the people at the field if the lights would be turned on later in the evening, but they said no, the lights were never turned on during Saturday.

2015-09-12 19.13

From this analysis, it appears that the amount of people using the field depends on a variety of factors, including heat, scheduling, pre-planned college sponsored activities or visits, and access to light. It seems, through the data available, that the temperature on a particular day does not have a large effect on how or when the field is used. Rather, the Arizona heat is a forgone conclusion when sports teams decide their group practice and exercise schedules. While special occasions (such as helicopters or tents) can draw students out into the sunlight for a period of time, scheduled sports activities seem bound by the anticipated climate and ASU’s willingness to water and light a field of grass.

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