15 November 2012

Interview with public health ethnographer and Facebook UX researcher

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Judd Antin is a social psychologist and user experience researcher who studies motivations for online participation at Facebook. In 2011, he was named an MIT Technology Review Innovator Under 35. Prior to joining Facebook as a user experience researcher, he worked with Yahoo Research. His educational background includes Applied Anthropology, Information Science, and training at the French Culinary Institute.

Tamar Antin is a research scientist who uses mixed and especially qualitative methods to critically examine public health policies and narratives. She has several years of experience in public health research. One of her recent publications is Food Choice As a Multidimensional Experience. Her dissertation combining three papers on food choices and body image is excellent reading for any student of qualitative methods.

Rachelle Annechino talked with them both about anthropology, social science, stigma, Big Data and Small Data, “and other interesting things.”

Here is what Judd says about his work at Facebook:

“Most people who use Facebook do not live in the United States, and yet here we are in Silicon Valley, and we are working pretty hard to understand the perspectives of people who are getting on Facebook in Nigeria and Indonesia, in Vietnam, and Russia. We have hundreds of millions of people in these places. And so recently people on my team did this almost ethnographic trip where they went to a bunch of different countries, trying to understand the environment there as it related to the use of social media, and basic phones, and the technical infrastructure, and the social conventions and norms. I think that kind of work is going to become ever more important. If you believe that culture is important to the way that people use technology and that it should be baked in, and that you can’t form assumptions based only on this ethnocentric point of view, then I think you have to be an anthropologist. You have to be interested in cultural differences and frames of reference, and how they relate to technology use.”

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