Human Factors Journal Entry #1

Built in 1912, the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is suspended 50 metres above the river below and is 40 metres across. The bridge is made of wooden planks and offers a rustic and lively encounter. Having being raised on the North Shore and spending a lot of time on the trails in this temperate rainforest public park, I thought it would be fun to take a step back and observe individuals experiencing the park.

Based upon Dr. Dan’s first week of class content, I chose to focus on the Human-Centred Systems Approach and capabilities & limitations. I wanted to observe how different people’s capabilities & limitations were influenced by physical, cognitive and social factors. First I situated myself on a bench facing the west side of the bridge, so I could see people going on to the bridge, getting off of the bridge and the individuals while crossing the bridge. I sat with my notebook in hand, scribbling notes as I watched the people. Without talking to anyone, I attempted to document peoples capabilities and limitations by observing their body language, spoken words and reactions. I specifically focused on their capabilities and limitations of crossing the suspension bridge. In the 45 minutes I sat on the bench, there were about 300 people who crossed (likely more).

The first reaction observed was also the most frequent, excitement. Excitement on people’s faces as they gazed at the giant second growth trees, the swaying suspension bridge, and the raging waterfall and river below. This excitement made them capable of crossing the bridge and exploring what lay beyond. I also think excitement, and perhaps a sense of adventure, would allow some people to quickly take their hands off the railings. Fear was also a common emotion. Lots were tourist who were scared of dogs and this would prevent them crossing the bridge, as there were anywhere from 1-5 dogs on the bridge at anytime. Also the fear of the 105 year old bridge, the small size of it and lack of support spanning a wide expanse and even taller height. Culture was a very interesting capability and limitation I didn’t even think I would see. I witnessed a foreign couple (perhaps Middle Eastern judging from her garb) and their two children (one in a stroller) walked up to the bridge, they had a heated conversation and quickly turned around. I thought they had decided it wasn’t for them, and left. They returned about thirty minutes later, the mother had changed her shoes. The father was the only one to cross the bridge, the mother sat on a bench out of sight of the bridge with the children. I don’t understand why she changed her shoes if she wasn’t going to cross the bridge. I also wonder if she stayed with the children and didn’t cross because of their culture. Or it could’ve been fear, or a variety of different factors. Love was another common reaction, I witness many couples kissing and taking pictures, holding on to one another tightly, experiencing the bridge together. It was interesting to watch large groups arrive at the bridge’s entrance and to watch part of the group cross, while the others stayed behind on land. Some of those people would eventually cautiously venture on to the bridge, almost like a fear of missing out (“FOMO”) urged them on. There were several, separate, small groups of disabled individuals: from visual to physical to audio to intellectual. I found it quite beautiful to watch their experiences of the bridge, not that I could fully understand what they might be feeling. I loved watching everyone’s reactions, which were punctuated every time with a smile. It really got me thinking how an individual who is visually impaired experiences sites that I would take for granted are purely visual. The sounds of the rushing water and wind, the creaking of the metal and wood bridge, the voices of their friends and other people. The feel of the waters mist on their faces, the wooden bridge underfoot, the metal railings in their hands, the swaying and bouncing of the suspension bridge, and the jostling of people passing people while crossing. And not one, in these groups of differently abled individuals, did not cross. They were not limited in any way of crossing the bridge.

This is my first observation and I found the experience very interesting, eye opening and slightly uncomfortable. People see you sitting there with a notebook writing and looking around, and they try to figure you out or label you. If someone stared really hard at me, I would just flash a big smile. I found it a very good exercise for me to try and experience the suspension bridge through other peoples’ shoes. The event was difficult, as you are trying to label peoples’ personal capabilities and limitations and the potential influence (physical, cognitive or social). I tried to be as non-judgmental as I could. Overall I really enjoyed the site and will likely return to do more observations.

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