Integrating Observation and Network Analysis to Identify Patterns of Use in the Public Space: A Gender Perspective

Sergi Valera, Hernan Casakin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In the last few decades, increasing attention has been given to gender issues in urban design. However, research on the urban environment continues to show large gender inequalities, which are especially evident when studying the use and enjoyment of the public space. This study aims to identify predominant patterns of use in public places and to explore the possible existence of traditional gender roles in the urban space. The study uses, three public spaces in the city of Barcelona as a case study, an innovative combination of systematic observation techniques and network analysis procedures. Variables collected by EXOdES, a dedicated software analysis tool for systematic observation, are represented as nodes of a network system and analyzed using network analysis tools. Findings confirmed that, in spite of the progressive consolidation of feminist urbanism, uses in the public realm resulting from traditional gender roles remained explicitly recognizable. Whereas women's occupation of space was related to playground and resting areas, generally involving care activities concerned with children or elderly people, men were primarily located in resting and sports areas, practicing sports, or participating in leisure activities. These patterns of use were more prone to emerge when users were part of a group than when they were alone. From a gender perspective, a contribution of the study is that it informed about main aspects of the analyzed public spaces reconfirming the existence of traditional roles in society, and the significance of exploring the public space as a key scenario where social features are explicitly exposed. From a methodological perspective, the processing of observational data with network analysis tools proved to be relevant and suitable for dealing with the intricacies of urban place analysis. Compared to more classical approaches and systems, these techniques allowed to identify and interpret complex systems composed of many variables and relationships in a relatively straightforward manner, which turns it into a useful aid for urban designers and architects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number898809
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 2022


  • environmental psychology
  • gender analysis
  • network analysis
  • public space
  • spatial patterns of use
  • systematic observation
  • urban design


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