Urban Probes

A methodology for conducting Urban Computing Research

"Let us embrace the full scope of urban life with all of its emotions and experiences"

Urban Atmospheres Research at Intel




An Urban Probe begins with deep observations within a public urban space. Unlike brainstorming which is a traditional offline technique used to reflect on a researcher’s observations of a task or activity, Urban Probes employ in situ, real time, in place brainstorming – or body storming. Body storming consists of examining public spaces, its people, movement, and actions in extreme detail. By enforcing deep, extreme observation of a particular urban activity, object, or place, a more authentic understanding of its true role within urban life is revealed.

Some examples of questions to consider during such body storming activities are: What are the boundaries of this place? What is the “entrance” and “exit”? Describe the urban ecology of this place. What are the patterns within or across this space? Excavate or reveal the existence of at least one human trace within or across this place and interpret it. Expose a public secret that is concealed within this place. What one question would you ask this place? In this place, what is most “beautiful”? Most “disruptive”? What single word captures the aura of this place? In a single sentence, what is the meaning of this place?


Urban Atmospheres at Intel Research