counter

Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


Posts in category 'Ethnography'

20 August 2014

Facebook uses ethnography to deliver more relevant ads

IMG_28691

“As researchers focusing on Facebook’s advertising, we led research trips with a cross-functional team of product managers, marketers, and engineers to Indonesia, Turkey, and South Africa to develop a solid understanding of cultural differences across these countries. [...] Forming a richer understanding of how businesses and people connect with each other—both on and off of Facebook—around the world works will help us develop better ad solutions that drive a positive feedback cycle: we will make better experiences for the people who use Facebook and for the businesses and brands who want to connect with their core customers and prospects.”

Read more here.

16 August 2014

How to conduct design research for home healthcare devices

healthcare_device

As healthcare shifts from the hospital to the home, design research must also morph to keep up, writes Shana Leonard.

Who is the typical user of your medical product and what is the use environment? These used to be easy questions for medical device companies to answer. But the increasing shift in healthcare from the hospital to the home has many designers scratching their heads in response.

As the industry adapts to serve these new stakeholders, the focus on user-centered design, observational research, human factors engineering, and generally designing with the user in mind is becoming increasingly critical in order to ensure compliance, minimize risk, and promote market adoption. Designers must be creative and nimble in the face of these complex new challenges.

16 August 2014

How Wells Fargo learned to innovate around the customer

steve-ellis

Wells Fargo, the world’s most valuable bank, learned to innovate around the customer.

In 1999, Steve Ellis, who runs the bank’s wholesale services group, went to a conference where Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems described a completely new era of digital banking that would unfold over the next decade. Nobody else seemed impressed, but Ellis was transfixed. For him, it was an epiphany.

Ellis realized that technology could be used to make the customer’s life easier, streamlining processes to enhance user experience, but he also knew how “customer is king” initiatives could easily devolve into useless platitudes. He wouldn’t find answers in boardroom discussions, but would need to look beyond banking for insights.

So Ellis immersed himself in Internet culture and eventually hit on ethnography techniques, which ha been commonly used in consumer products companies like Procter & Gamble, but were completely foreign to the banking industry. At first intrigued, then excited, he sent his team for training at nearby Stanford university to learn how to perform ethnography studies.

It seemed to be exactly the answer he was looking for. Instead of having executives brainstorm in the corporate offices, they would get out and observe customers as they navigated often confusing banking routines. As they uncovered problems and experienced frustrations first-hand, they could devise solutions.”

16 August 2014

Leveraging ethnography to improve food safety

supermarket

Carolyn Rose explains how ethnography can be used to improve food safety:

If done correctly, ethnography leads to a holistic and unbiased understanding of current practices and the motivations that drive them. Looking specifically to learn the existing challenges, workarounds, deviations and drivers within an interaction, task or activity, we are able to identify opportunities for process-based improvements. Such opportunities can ultimately take many forms, including new work flows, tools and/or techniques. For example, identifying specific areas of noncompliance might lead to new safety training protocols, while identifying comparatively labor-intensive or time-consuming tasks might lead to the implementation of alternative technologies/automation aimed to mitigate bottlenecks.

As such, ethnography can be a critical first step in evolving food safety practices. With a sound understanding of current practices and the real needs and challenges therein, we can make informed and targeted process improvements aimed to optimize efficiency, quality, ease of use, consistency and safety.

19 July 2014

[Book]: Nursing Research Using Ethnography

9780826134653

Nursing Research Using Ethnography: Qualitative Designs and Methods in Nursing
Mary De Chesnay, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN (Editor)
Pub. Date: 08/28/2014
372 pp., Softcover
Springer
[Amazon]

Ethnography is a qualitative research design that focuses on the study of people to explore cultural phenomena. This concise, “how to” guide to conducting qualitative ethnography research spearheads a new series, Qualitative Designs and Methods, for novice researchers and specialists alike focusing on state-of-the-art methodologies from a nursing perspective. Scholars of qualitative ethnography research review the philosophical basis for choosing ethnography as a research tool and describe in depth its key features and development level. They provide directives on how to solve practical problems related to ethnography research, nursing examples, and discussion of the current state of the art. This includes a comprehensive plan for conducting studies and a discussion of appropriate measures, ethical considerations, and potential problems.

Examples of published ethnography nursing research worldwide, along with author commentary, support the new researcher in making decisions and facing challenges. Each chapter includes objectives, competencies, review questions, critical thinking exercises, and web links for more in-depth research. A practical point of view pervades the book, which is geared to help novice researchers and specialists expand their competencies, engage graduate teachers and students and in-service educators and students, and aid nursing research in larger health institutions.

Key Features:

  • Includes examples of state-of-the-art ethnography nursing research with content analysis
  • Presents a comprehensive plan for conducting studies and appropriate measures, ethical considerations, and potential challenges
  • Describes theoretical underpinnings, key features, and development level
  • Written by ethnography scholars from around the world
17 July 2014

Ethnography : an antifragile practice?

 

Simon Roberts of Stripe Partners continues his three part series on ethnography.

In the first two posts in this series he examined ethnography as practiced in two different contexts – the (1) market research (MR) industry and (2) corporate R&D labs.

He argued that ethnography in ‘MR’ has been devalued as a serious approach to understanding the world through lazy and incurious application. He suggested that ethnography had fared rather better in corporate R&D environments but that challenges exist there too.

This third post makes five initial suggestions for strengthening and developing ethnographic practices in a context of change:
1. Redouble efforts to understand systems and their dynamics: revel in cultural flux
2. Embrace technological tools but don’t forget that the situated observer and analyst remain at the heart of the ethnographic endeavour
3. Show your workings – or don’t hide behind the interpretation
4. Simple doesn’t mean the same as simplistic
5. Ethnography should act as the start point for collaboration

7 June 2014

IKEA’s Life At Home report

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 17.30.45

Core77 has drawn my attention to IKEA’s newly launched Life At Home report, which explores the home lives of people all over the globe, with a focus on the morning routines, habits and wishes of those who live in Berlin, London, Moscow, Dubai, New York, Paris, Shanghai and Stockholm.

As Core77 correctly points out, with a focus purely on the numbers, the study is “absent any cultural explanations, and is therefore subject to misinterpretation; for example, upon reading that 59% of Londoners start their mornings with a shower or bath while only 8% of Shanghaiers do, one might conclude that the latter city is filled with unwashed masses. But those familiar with East Asian culture will realize it’s much more common to do the washing-up there before bedtime.”

Still, the study is very wide in scope and has some great photography easily accessible in a visually striking site.

30 May 2014

How to use ethnography for in-depth consumer insight

Consumers_natural_habits-2000

Spending a weekend sitting in someone else’s house reporting when, why and how much they ate, drank, bathed, watched TV or used their mobile phone isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but for a marketer it is one of the best ways to gain deeper customer insight, according to a feature article in Marketing Week.

The process, often referred to as ethnography, can result in breakthroughs for brands, offering an insight into what people are really like, rather than what they want researchers to think they are like.

21 May 2014

Food safety and older people: the Kitchen Life ethnographic study

Tom-McLeod-in-kitchen-004

Foodborne illness is a major public health problem in the UK. Recent increases in cases of listeriosis in older people have focused attention on consumer food-related practices. Previous studies highlight poor relationships between what people know, what they say they do and what they actually do in the kitchen. The aim of the Kitchen Life study was to examine what actually happens in the domestic kitchen to assess whether and how this has the potential to influence food safety in the home. Drawing on a qualitative ethnographic approach, methods included a kitchen tour, photography, observation, video observation, informal interviews and diary methods. Ten households with older people (aged 60+) were recruited across the UK. It was found that trust in the food supply, use of food-labelling (including use-by dates), sensory logics (such as the feel or smell of food) and food waste were factors with the potential to influence risk of foodborne illness. Practices shifted with changing circumstances, including increased frailty, bereavement, living alone, receiving help with care and acquiring new knowledge, meaning that the risk of and vulnerability to foodborne illness is not straightforward.

The research was conducted by the University of Hertfordshire, UK, and commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA).

> Summary article
> Scientific paper

10 May 2014

Anthropologists as scholarly hipsters

posecznick

Can looking at the hipster tell us something about the anthropologist and the academy?

Alex Posecznick (anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania) explores the role of anthropologists in academia from a parallel hipster point of view. With his blog posts Posecznick hopes “to contribute to an ongoing dialogue about scholarly subjectivities in anthropology vis-à-vis the cultural trope of the contemporary, urban ‘hipster.’”

Part I: What is a hipster?
What precisely is a “hipster” and does it actually exist as a meaningful category?

Part II: Critiques from the margins
In this second post, Posecznick focuses on a common characteristic that is both productive and frustrating for anthropologists and hipsters alike: their position at the margins.

Part III: The anthropological brand
In this third post, Posecznick wants to take a brief moment point to what anthropologists wear and the images they cultivate.

Part IV: Authenticity and Privilege
Examining the endless search for authenticity.

Alex Posecznick (@AlexPosecznick) serves as manager of the Division of Education, Culture and Society at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education while also holding an academic appointment therein, where he teaches courses in Anthropology and Education, Qualitative Modes of Inquiry and Merit and America. His scholarly work focuses on the ethnographic examination of neoliberalism, public policy, and the culture of meritocracy vis-à-vis institutions of higher education.

And related: Conference Chic, or, How to Dress Like an Anthropologist

9 May 2014

[Book] Handbook of Anthropology in Business

493_tn

Handbook of Anthropology in Business
Editors: Rita M. Denny and Patricia L. Sunderland
Left Coast Press
752 pp. / May, 2014

In recent years announcements of the birth of business anthropology have ricocheted around the globe. The first major reference work on this field, the Handbook of Anthropology in Business is a creative production of more than 60 international scholar-practitioners working in universities and corporate settings from high tech to health care. Offering broad coverage of theory and practice around the world, chapters demonstrate the vibrant tensions and innovation that emerge in intersections between anthropology and business and between corporate worlds and the lives of individual scholar-practitioners. Breaking from standard attempts to define scholarly fields as products of fixed consensus, the authors reveal an evolving mosaic of engagement and innovation, offering a paradigm for understanding anthropology in business for years to come.

> Table of contents
> Excerpt

23 April 2014

Ethnography, magpies, shiny things, and parallel worlds

Magpies-Stuff-1200x420

Three posts by Simon Roberts (?) explore the rise, fall and possible futures of ethnography in commercial settings.

Ethnography, magpies and shiny things
The first piece explores how ethnography fell victim of the enduring quest for fashion and the need to differentiate in market research. The market research industry commoditized ethnography and failed to capitalise on its potential. As a result, ethnography has become at best weakened, at worst sidelined in favour of newer, vogue ideas and approaches. It’s not just a lament – but a call for reinvigoration.

Ethnography in a parallel world
The second piece explores contexts in which ethnography has been used to greater potential – and chart the threats it now faces. It is a story of the rise and rise ethnography in contexts outside of market research where its application was more sophisticated and delivered more.

The third will attempt a resolution of the first two posts – charting a course for the future as a vital tool for businesses (and others) in their on-going attempts to understand and engage with a complex world.

9 April 2014

Ethnography in action at Wells Fargo

wellsfargo

Only a few years ago, the corporate view of retirement planning at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank tended to focus on dollars and cents — how much an individual needed to invest, by when and for how many years,” write Julien Cayla, Robin Beers and Eric Arnould, authors of the article “Stories That Deliver Business Insights,” in the Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. This segmentation did not account for context such as whether a person was inclined to think about long-term financial goals.

“As part of an ethnographic project commissioned by the bank, researchers had customers walk through a life timeline and recount activities they engaged in that related to retirement planning in each decade of their lives — their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond,” write the authors. The stories showed that baby boomers faced “a complex phenomenon of continually negotiated personal travails and marketplace dynamics.”

As a result of what they heard, the Wells Fargo team reworked how they think of customers. The bank developed a behavior-based segmentation that divided retirement approaches into three groups — Reactor, Pooler and Maximizer. [...]

As a result, the bank adjusted its marketing strategy and “designed its retirement planning site to include the various life stages used in the ethnographic research to convey the message ‘we meet you where you are’ and provide relevant, unintimidating guidance — as opposed to producing numbers-dense material filled with endless financial projections.”

10 March 2014

Observing the technologists

3283045370_1982140195_b

Nick Seaver, a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at UC Irvine, makes the case for the importance of “studying up“: doing ethnographies not only of disempowered groups, but of groups who wield power in society, like technology developers. This project focuses on the development of algorithmic music recommendation systems.

“Just as ethnography is an excellent tool for showing how “users” are more complicated than one might have thought, it is also useful for understanding the processes through which technologies get built. By turning an ethnographic eye to the designers of technology — to their social and cultural lives, and even to their understandings of users — we can get a more nuanced picture of what goes on under the labels “big data” or “algorithms.” For outsiders interested in the cultural ramifications of technologies like recommender systems, this perspective is crucial for making informed critiques. For developers themselves, being the subject of ethnographic research provides a unique opportunity for reflection and self-evaluation.”

Now I am curious what his research results actually showed.

5 March 2014

De l’importance de l’ethnographie appliquée aux technologies

Etvousvotrechaudiereestelleaccessible-221x300

For once a post in French!

Hubert Guillaud of InternetActu describes some examples – mostly from the recent EPIC conference – of the great contribution of ethnography in focusing our gaze on real life practices, in pointing out that what technologists do not see, and in explaining how the strictly technological gaze often fails. ["Le grand apport de l’ethnographie est de renverser notre regard sur les pratiques en pointant du doigt ce que les technologues ne voient pas, d’expliquer en quoi le regard strictement technologique bien souvent, échoue."]

“L’ethnographie est une méthode des sciences sociales consistant en l’étude descriptive et analytique, sur le terrain, des moeurs, coutumes et pratiques de populations déterminées. Longtemps cantonnés aux populations primitives, les sociologues, anthropologues et ethnologues ont depuis les années 70 élargies l’usage de ces méthodes à bien d’autres terrains, et notamment à l’étude de nos pratiques quotidiennes, afin de mieux comprendre “les expériences humaines en contexte”. Parmi les repères de la conception ethnographique appliquée à la technologie, citons au moins le travail pionnier de Lucy Suchman au Xerox Parc dès les années 90, ou celui de Genevieve Bell qui poursuit ce travail chez Intel et qui a signé, avec Tony Salvador et Ken Anderson, en 1999, l’un des articles fondateur de l’ethnographie appliquée aux questions technologiques.

Depuis 2011, le site Questions d’Ethnographie (ethnomatters) interroge ces nouvelles pratiques de l’ethnographie et permet à de jeunes chercheurs de discuter la tension entre l’ethnographie universitaire et l’ethnographie appliquée, tel que de plus en plus d’ethnologues la pratiquent. Pour eux, si l’ethnographie est importante, c’est parce qu’elle aide à maintenir “le développement technologique réel”, concret.

Récemment, le site a publié une série d’exemples tirés de présentations qui se sont déroulées lors de la conférence Epic 2013 qui avait lieu en septembre dernier à Londres, une conférence sur la pratique ethnographique dans le monde des affaires (voir le brouillon non finalisé des actes (.pdf)), qui éclaire d’une manière concrète l’intérêt de l’ethnographie appliquée. Le grand apport de l’ethnographie est de renverser notre regard sur les pratiques en pointant du doigt ce que les technologues ne voient pas, d’expliquer en quoi le regard strictement technologique bien souvent, échoue. Prenons quelques exemples pour mieux comprendre les enjeux.”

5 March 2014

Reflecting on anthropology and design

savageminds

A few weeks back I wrote that Rachel Carmen Ceasar (@rceasara) is running a short series on Savage Minds that features interviews with design researchers, ethnographic hackers, and field work makers with their take on anthropology and design.

Besides her interview with Nicolas Nova, she has now published a couple more interviews:

Anne Galloway – designer, ethnographer, archaeologist
For Anne, the most interesting connection between anthropology and design can be found in how each practice enhances the other. Anthropology provides a kind of thick description that contextualises design processes and products, and design offers anthropology creative means of exploring and representing what it means to be human. She also enjoys the explicit combination of thinking, doing, and making—of blurring boundaries between analytical and creative practice, between rational and emotional experience.

Note Anne’s use of apps:
I record all my interviews with an app called Highlight, which I like because I can flag interesting points during the conversation and return to them later, without interrupting the flow. I do a lot of note-taking, using a regular paper notebook or an app called iA Writer (because that’s where I do most of my writing these days, including right now).”

Silvia Lindtner – DIY maker, hacker, and ethnographic design researcher
Can making and designing for a living also be critical? In which ways? How does critical design in production differ from the kind of critical design we know today?

26 February 2014

What the tech business hasn’t yet grasped about human nature

20140225_Gen_Bell_MWC

Genevieve Bell, Intel’s in-house anthropologist, sees constants in our behavior that could mean big bucks for businesses that find a way to capitalize on them. C|Net reports on her talk at the Mobile World Congress yesterday.

“In this digital world, the story we’re telling about the future is a story driven by what the technology wants and not what we as humans need,” Bell said at the WIPjam developer event during the massive Mobile World Congress show here. “We want mystery, we want boredom, a lot of us in this room want to be dangerous and bad and be forgiven about it later. We want to be human, not digital.”

15 February 2014

The anthropology of globalization / The ethnography of finance

 

Keith Hart is Professor of Economic Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Goldsmith’s, University of London. He has contributed to the concept of the informal economy to development studies and has published widely on economic anthropology.

The Memory Bank is Keith Hart’s digital archive and blog, which was created in 2000 to help publicize his book by the same name. The site includes a near final version of the book, short academic articles written and published in the last decade, and forays into journalism, stories, poetry, and film reviews.

In his latest essay, Money and finance: For an anthropology of globalization, Hart and co-author Horacio Ortiz (Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, Paris), review recent developments in the anthropology of money and finance, listing its achievements, shortcomings and prospects, referring back to the discipline’s founders a century ago. and focusing on money’s role in shaping global society and bringing world history into a more active dialogue with ethnography.

“If the new ethnography of finance is to throw more than superficial light on society, we must transcend the categories that shape media discussion of the “crisis” and try to understand our shared human predicament as a moment in the history of money. We need new methods if we wish to account for how money underpins social identities and relations of conflict, hierarchy and interdependence in the world we are making today. This review proposes some of the tools we need, drawing first on some classical authors who combined openness to ethnographic discovery with a global vision of economic history in their times and then on contemporary anthropological research.”

14 February 2014

anthropology + design: nicolas nova

b-car2

Rachel Carmen Ceasar (@rceasara) is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Medical Anthropology Program at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco (California, USA). She writes about the subjective and scientific stakes in exhuming mass graves from the Spanish Civil War and dictatorship in Spain today.

She is now running a short series on Savage Minds that features interviews with design researchers, ethnographic hackers, and field work makers with their take on anthropology and design.

For the first interview, she talks with design researcher and ethnographer Nicolas Nova.

Nicolas Nova is a design researcher, ethnographer and co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory. His work is about identifying weak signals as well as exploring people’s needs, motivations and contexts to map new design opportunities and chart potential futures. Nicolas has given talks and exhibited his work on the intersections of design, technology and the near-future possibilities for new social-technical interaction rituals in venues such SXSW, AAAS, O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference and the design week in Milano, the Institute for the Future, the the MIT Medialab. He holds a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne and has been a visiting researcher at the Art Center School of Design (Pasadena). He is also Professor at the Geneva University of Arts and Design (HEAD–Genève) and curator for Lift Conference, a series of international events about digital culture and innovation.

Upcoming interviews are with Kat Jungnickel (Lecturer at Goldsmiths), Daniela K. Rosner (PhD student at UC Berkeley’s School of Information), and Silvia Lindtner (a post-doctoral fellow at the ISTC-Social at UC Irvine and at Fudan University Shanghai).

Kat Jungnickel is a sociologist interested in maker culture, DiY / DiT (do-it-together) technology practices, gender and mobilities and inventive methods. Her current work investigates the impact of (digital) technologies and material practices in knowledge transmission and the potential different stories hold for understanding social worlds.

Daniela K. Rosner is currently finishing her doctorate at UC Berkeley’s School of Information and holds a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design in Graphic Design and a M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Chicago. Through fieldwork and design, she reveal and create surprising connections between technology and handwork. She is also an assistant professor in UW’s Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE), and co-directs the TAT Lab with Beth Kolko.

Silvia Lindtner is a post-doctoral fellow at the ISTC-Social (the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing) at UC Irvine and at Fudan University Shanghai. She researches, writes and teaches about DIY (do-it-yourself) maker culture, with a particular focus on its intersections with manufacturing and industry development in China. Drawing on her background in interaction design and media studies, she merges ethnographic methods with approaches in design and making. This allows her to provide deep insights into emerging cultures of technology production and use, from a sociological and technological perspective.

14 February 2014

An ethnography of the Brixton Pound

10brixtonpounds

Mario Campana (@mariocampana), a PhD student at City University London’s Cass Business School, researches the growing trend of local currencies – of which there are currently over 3000 around the world.

He recently presented at EPIC, where in a Pecha Kucha presentation he discussed his PhD research into the Brixton Pound, a neighborhood in South London.

Expanding upon the research presented in the rapid-fire format of his last presentation on this aspect of his research, this article expands upon his ethnographic inquiry into Brixton’s local currency, delving deep into the social forces driving the development of the currency and the surrounding community. Such forces include issues of gentrification, and the conflicting notions of community and belonging between previously settled and locally rooted immigrants from the Caribbean and the recent influx of young, wealthy, and upwardly-mobile settlers from other parts of the city.