Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman is an urban anthropologist living and people-watching in Philadelphia. As the founder of THINK.urban, she specializes in research and analysis of behavior in public space.
Her love of people and cities comes from a background in anthropology when she was introduced to our transition from hunter-gatherers to an urbanized and sedentary species. After graduating from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, she took part in a multidisciplinary research project investigating open space (public and private) in cities through space and time.
Living in sprawling Phoenix was an eye-opener, especially as a non-driver, and she realized the need to apply this knowledge of human-scale cities to our contemporary era. She went on to complete her Masters of Urban Studies at Portland State University where she conducted an "ethnography of place" on a unique plaza for her thesis, as well as a human-subjects approved ethnography of the Occupy Portland site.
After graduation she strove to find a way to impact Portland and improve its public spaces. Focusing on the streets, she found solace in tactical urbanism and a small group of like-minded urbanists who set to work creating the largest Park(ing) Day event in the city. They presented surveys collected at the event to the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, advocating for more projects like this following the success. Building on the momentum, they moved forward to create Better Block Portland - an offshoot of the open source Better Block movement changing streets for the better nationwide.
Coming to New York City, she worked as the Communications and Outreach Manager at Project for Public Spaces leading the biannual training workshops and managing all communications and social media. Most recently she was an Urban Anthropologist at City ID where she conducted user testing and user behavior analysis, and applied small-scale ethnographic research to public space ahead of wayfinding projects. Her experience in both contexts led her back to an emphasis on the human element and the need to continue observational research in our public spaces - especially in this era of "smart city" data-centric thinking.
While in NYC she was an active founding member of the Social Science Research and Architecture committee at the New York chapter of AIA, and has appeared in panels at the Center for Architecture in NYC, the Urban Salon panel series, and the Stanford Human Cities Initiative workshop. As a new transplant to Philadelphia, she is excited to be collaborating on public space improvement projects in the city, while consulting on urban research projects nationally.
In her free time she has written about all things urban anthropology for years on this blog and elsewhere. Articles found here are also syndicated to Medium, NewCo Shift, and Sustainable Cities Collective. She loves talking about urban issues and recently appeared on the Urbanism Speakeasy podcast with Andy Boenau, and co-hosts the podcast Third Wave Urbanism with Kristen Jeffers.
Panels and workshops
- Panelist, Urban Salon: The Feminist City, New York City, February 23, 2017
- Speaker/Panelist, Stanford Human Cities@NYC: Explorations of the Smart City, NYC, November 17-19, 2016
- Speaker/Panelist, Global Migration, Refugees, and a Role for Design, AIANY, October 24, 2016
- Volunteer Facilitator, 14th Street "L-Ternatives" Community Design Workshop, Transportation Alternatives, September 26, 2016
- Panelist, Urban Salon: The Mediated City, New York City, May 26, 2016
- Speaker/Panelist, Exploring the Past, Defining the Future: The History of Social Science and Architecture, April 20, 2016
- Presenter, Social Media Techniques for Public Space Advocacy, Placemaking: Making it Happen workshop, Project for Public Space, 2014
Podcasts and Publications
- Interviewee, Curbed, Mansplaining the City, by Alissa Walker, August 2017
- Interviewee, Parksify, 10 Questions for..., July 2017
- Guest, The Parksify podcast with Ash Blankenship, Protests in Public Spaces, February 2017
- Co-collaborator with Camilla Siggaard Andersen, Growing Culture - Cycling NYC, Gehl Architects Blog, January 2017
- Author, Syntax in the City, Peeps Magazine Issue 02, 2016
- Guest, The Urbanism Speakeasy podcast with Andy Boenau, Anthropology (the fine art of people watching), July 2016
- Contributor, What Jane Means: 4 Women Urbanists Reflect on Their Relationship to Jane Jacobs, Metropolis Magazine, June 2016
- Author, In Defense of Bias - On the nature of qualitative research, Peeps Forum, 2015
- Author, On Placemaking: An Anthropologist's Perspective, Peeps Forum, 2015
- Co-author, Urban Open Spaces in Historical Perspectives: A Transdisciplinary Typology and Analysis, Urban Geography, October 22, 2012
- Author - Master's Thesis, Public Space and Urban Life: A Spatial Ethnography of a Portland Plaza, Portland State University, June 2012
- Author, Public Space and Protest: An Ethnographic Analysis of Alpha and Beta Camps at Occupy Portland (Draft for Discussion), Portland State University, December 2011