(Eye)tracking users’ patterns: visual experience and choice behavior in transition zones of Amsterdam-Southeast
Academy of Neuroscience Applied to Architecture (2018)
Over the next 10 years, the City of Amsterdam plans to develop major housing schemes provide 90,000 new homes within the existing urban fabric.At the same time, an urban renewal program is being launched to revitalize the most deprived neighbourhoods.Together, these challenges call for more evidence based design-principles to secure liveable places.Recent development in neuroscience, provides innovative tools to examine in a measurable, cause-effect way, the relationships between the physical fabric, users’ (visual) experience and their behavior in public spaces.In neuroscience, eye-tracking technology (ET) complements brain and behavioral measures (for overview see Eckstein et al.2017).ET is already used to evaluate the spatial orienting of attention, behavioral response and emotional and cognitive impact in neuroscience, psychology and market research (Popa et al. 2015).ET may also radically change the way we (re)design and thus, experience cities (Sita et al. 2016; Andreani 2017). Until now, eye-tracking pilot studies collected eye fixation patterns of architecture using images in a lab-setting (Lebrun 2016).
In our research project Sensing Streetscapes, we take eye-tracking outdoors and explore the potential ET may offer for city design.In collaboration with the municipality of Amsterdam and the local community, the H-neighborhood is used as a single case study.The main focus for urban renewal lies in the “transition-spaces”.They connect the neighborhood with the rapidly developing adjacent areas and are vital for improving the weak social-economic status.The commonly used design principles are validated (Alexander et al.1977; Gehl 2011, 2014; Pallasmaa 2012) and the consistency of ET is tested, alongside (walk along) interviews and behavioral observations.In the next phase, the data will be analyzed by a panel of applied psychologists and urban designers.
The initial results provide valuable lessons for the use of eye-tracking in urban design research.For example, a visual pattern analysis offers more accurate images of the spatial key-elements that matter when moving through transition spaces.More sensory-based city design research is needed to gather a full understanding of the relationships between the configuration of space, users’ (visual) experience, behavioral responses and in turn, perceptual decision making.