Simon Roberts, the highly engaging, smart and easily approachable chair of the EPIC conference last week, was so absorbed with all the logistics that he didn’t find the concentration to speak his mind during the conference. Now that the conference is over (and well organised it was!), it took him less than a week to type out a long blog post to position his thoughts on Big Data. It’s a long read but very much worth it, and it starts off exactly with the right criticism:
“The discussion at EPIC 2013 disappointed me a little. It was either constrained by simplistic oppositions (big data good / nothing to fear vs. big data bad / end of our profession as we know it), impoverished by a general lack of ethnographic specificity and illustration, or absented to discuss the power relations that big data entails.
Most worrying for me of all of these was the lack of specificity in the discussion and the absence of discussion about power. “
Exactly my thinking as well. There is an asymmetry in power relations that requires serious reflection and analysis, and it was dearly missing, sometimes even actively sidelined – as if irrelevant for ethnographers. There is an ethical and even political side to Big Data, that we have to very aware of, as user researchers and as designers (i.e. the professionals that mediate the relations between corporations and people).
Very helpful are Simon’s four dimensions of Big Data which articulate this power imbalance in more detail:
He uses the example of the driving style tracking device that an insurance company installed in his car to raise some very good questions.
His three challenges (on incentive structures, interaction design and business risks) are spot-on. Read, read, read!
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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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
Experientia president Michele Visciola is one of the keynote speakers at User Friendly 2014, the annual user experience conference of UXPA China, to be held in Wuxi, China, 13 to 16 November. The theme of the 11th conference is the “new era of the experience economy,” thus underlining the importance of transferring UX concepts and […]
An upcoming event is encouraging anthropologists to “come out of their ivory towers” and work more closely with their colleagues in the field, in order to bridge the gap between “pure” and “applied” anthropology. The international symposium “Why the world needs anthropologists” (Facebook page) will be held on 5 December 2014 in Padua, Italy. Experientia […]