Toolkit for the Ethnographic Study of Space

The Toolkit for the Ethnographic Study of Space (TESS) is an in-depth method for studying the everyday life of a particular public space. It is a qualitative method that helps you understand the meaning and context of what you learn. Ethnography, a cultural description of a place, is a way to uncover the cultural rules, beliefs, feelings, and practices that make up public life. It complements quantitative survey and demographic methods by adding people’s experience of place.

Most importantly, a TESS study is a way to uncover the causes and dynamics of social exclusion, lack of diversity, and inequality in the use and access of a space so you can work toward creating a socially just space for all community groups and members.

TESS was created by the Public Space Research Group:

The Public Space Research Group (PSRG) was founded in 1995 by Professor Setha Low and doctoral students at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), within the Center for Human Environments. The objective was to create a center for ethnographic research, theory, and policy that focuses on the relationship of public space to people and communities within the context of legal, political and economic forces. The PSRG offers an integrated framework for examining the social processes that transform spaces into places, the conflicts that emerge over access and control of space, and the values and meanings people attach to places. We address local cultural and spatial resource problems and their evaluation, remediation, and revitalization through social policy, urban planning, management strategies and environmentally-sensitive design. The PSRG has rapidly grown in size and scope as faculty, graduate students and community associates research city parks, urban national parks, plazas, beaches, market areas, tourist areas, gated communities, co-operative housing, and historic preservation sites

For more information and further resources visit: https://psrg.commons.gc.cuny.edu/