by Amy Palit
photo by Miguel Cervantes
Steve Portigal, founder of Portigal Consulting, led a workshop at DRC entitled "Did you notice that? Tapping into your super-noticing power". For the workshop, participants were instructed to take photographs of things they noticed and thought were interesting and bring them in.
This is Steve's first DRC appearance since frequenting the conference in its earlier days as "about, with & for". I had a chance to catch up with him after the workshop and we spoke about ethnographic techniques, the challenges of working with clients, and his computer science background.
What was one of the photographs that was brought in?
Someone showed a picture of someone sitting in Daley Plaza. There was apparently a lot of seating available, but there was someone sitting facing into this fountain and his feet weren't in the water but he was sitting with his feet kind of over the edge, where there were other seats elsewhere. She was really struck by the fact that this person chose to do that, when there was this system that allowed you to do something, but he chose an alternative approach.
The way she described it was really great. "Was he antisocial? Is he trying to get away from it all? What was the reason that he was doing that?" And, in terms of process in order to take his picture, she asked his permission to take his picture and ended up asking this person about his behavior. He revealed that he found it very peaceful over there and that it was a way to kind of get away from everything.
People took pictures they had to submit to me, and they had to write them up. So, in doing that, I think they found that the story came out after. They saw things in their pictures that maybe weren't there at the time when they took the pictures. They didn't conscientiously process that. That sort of thing ends up being some of what we learned about: What goes on in the moment of noticing? What are some of the ways we can build those muscles up?
Do you usually ask permission to take pictures of people when you're in a public space?
No, but I also try to take their pictures so that they don't see me! I heard a story about a photography class at ID years and years ago. The assignment was to stand there on the street and to shoot people as they are coming at you in order to train you that that's okay to do. I take a lot of signs... they're artifacts, things in the environment that are interesting or curious.