putting people first

by experientia
by experientia
8 April 2008

Icon Magazine on video ethnography (and its ethics)

Be the first to share
putting people first
by experientia

Video ethnography
Architecture and design magazine Icon has published a 4 page article on video ethnography in its latest issue.

“The video ethnographers’ findings are gold dust to their clients and video ethnography has become one of the fashionable research techniques that any forward-looking design company now offers. The technology of closeup, real-time observation, using lightweight digital equipment, plays an increasingly significant role in the design process. If you want to find out about the people who will use a product or service, or to explore the potential for creating new products, call in a video ethnographer to film your subjects where they live or work. […]

Video ethnography is an extremely powerful technique so it is disturbing that, at a time when surveillance cameras watch us around the clock, designers seem largely unconcerned by the ethical problems it raises. The outcome of a video ethnography research project might, of course, be entirely altruistic, yielding an understanding of human needs that can only be a gain. On the other hand, the findings might provide companies with insights into our motivations that could be used to prompt us to buy their products and select their services, without ever knowing how or why we took their bait. If subtle forms of persuasion turn out to be video ethnography’s most usual purpose, then is it a technique that a responsible design community should support?”

The article is quite concerned with the ethical implications of using video ethnography for market research and ends as follows:

“Despite the new rhetoric of empathy and inclusiveness, of involving the user and understanding people’s needs, the person pointing the camera still occupies a position of authority in relation to the subject. This is no less real just because it is concealed beneath a soft blanket of warm feeling. When the research outcome is socially beneficial, as it is in healthcare, few would find any reason to object to the technique. The problem lies in the very 21st-century confusion between understanding people better to help them and understanding them better to manipulate their behaviour as consumers.”

Read full story

Be the first to share
Related Article
27 January 2015
Big Data and Small: Collaborations between ethnographers and data scientists
In the past three years, Heather Ford — an ethnographer and now a PhD student — has worked on ad hoc collaborative projects around Wikipedia sources with two data scientists from Minnesota, Dave Musicant and …
Related Article
24 January 2015
[Book] Beyond Design Ethnography
Beyond Design Ethnography: How Designers Practice Ethnographic Research Edited by Prof. Nicolas Nova along with Lysianne Léchot-Hirt of HEAD–Genève (CH), and Fabienne Kilchör and Sebastien Fasel (Emphase.ch) Head-Genève, January 2015 What do designers mean when they say they’re …
Related Article
22 January 2015
Ethnographic research of Davos delegates leads to some striking results
Every January, hundreds of politicians, CEOs, scientific experts, and celebrities gather for their annual meeting in the exclusive Swiss ski resort of Davos to "improve the state of the world." Yet, the World Economic Forum's …
Related Article
20 January 2015
Microsoft survey in 12 countries highlights people’s concerns about privacy
Microsoft’s second annual survey (pdf) of Internet users around the world has many obvious insights on the benefits of technology for how people shop, work, learn, and generally get stuff done, but only one real …
Related Article
12 January 2015
How Lego used ethnographic studies to become the Apple of toys
Or said differently: "If you want to understand how animals live, you don’t go to the zoo, you go to the jungle." Jørgen Vig Knudstorp began turning the company around by making several key moves: improving …
Related Article
9 January 2015
Quali-quantitative experiments in a Big Data world
Complementary social science? Quali-quantitative experiments in a Big Data world Anders Blok and Morten Axel Pedersen University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark Big Data & Society - August 6, 2014 The rise of Big Data in the social realm poses …
Related Article
5 January 2015
A manifesto for qualitative research (and more)
TNS, a global company specialised in market research, global market information and business analysis, has published some papers that are quite aligned with what the UX research and design community has been practicing for years …
Related Article
1 January 2015
The business of design consulting
Robert Fabricant, who moved from design consultancy Frog to development consultancy Dalberg, writes that the business of design consulting is undergoing mass extinction. In a long article for Wired he presents the history of design …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
21 December 2014
Experientia’s Twitter feed live

Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]

19 December 2014
Putting People First blog redesigned

Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.

27 November 2014
Why the world needs anthropologists – an update

Why the world needs anthropologists – Coming out of the ivory tower Location: Padua, Italy, Centro Culturale Altinate/San Gaetano Date and time: Friday, 5 December 2014, 13:00 – 18:00 Padua, Italy, 5 December 2014 – The second edition of the international symposium of applied anthropologists attempts to erase the boundary between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ anthropology, […]

30 October 2014
The BancoSmart ATM by Experientia for UniCredit selected for ADI Design Index

Last year Experientia designed the interface of an ATM of UniCredit, a major Italian bank. The interface is now rolled out across the bank’s ATMs in Italy, to great satisfaction of the bank and the customers alike, since interaction speed is much faster and error rates went down dramatically. Last year UniCredit and Experientia also […]

29 October 2014
Experientia at EPIC: UX transforming a financial institution

In September 2014 Experientia gave a presentation on working as UX professionals with financial institutions at the EPIC conference in New York. The paper is now available on the EPIC site in HTML and PDF versions (free registration req’d). Abstract Application of a user-centered approach rooted in ethnographic methodologies facilitates a major European bank’s transition […]

See all articles