2 January 2014

Using ethnography to build internet freedom tools for real people

Be the first to share

In our new dystopian world of pervasive surveillance, most people are at a loss what to do. The tools that allows us to maintain a semblance of privacy are really, really hard to use. Most of us won’t even try and just accept our fate, with resignation and some bitterness.

Michael Brennan is one of these people trying to change that.

He gave a talk a few days ago at the 30th Chaos Communication Congress [30c3] by the Chaos Computer Club [CCC] on how we can use ethnography and human-centered design to build more effective tools that can be used by individuals from all around the world to circumvent censorship and surveillance and communicate safely and anonymously.

Few hackers will disagree that users are not given enough consideration when building Internet Freedom Tools designed to circumvent censorship and surveillance. But how do we do it? This talk outlines a framework for a user-focused approach to the Development and Impact of Internet Freedom Tools through using ethnography, human-centered design, and the practice of research-based product definition. This talk is intended for developers, researchers, and journalists who seek to understand how better tools can be developed to protect anonymity and provide unfettered access to the Internet.

Internet Freedom Tools (IFTs) are developed to solve the technical challenges of anonymity, privacy, security and information access. Focus on these technical challenges rather than the user of an IFT can lead to overlooking the motivations, needs and usability issues faced by user communities. Further, IFTs may solve a technical challenge for users, and yet fall short when it comes to user experience. There is a disconnect that must be remedied for IFTs and the people who use them to realize their full potential.

This talk seeks to provide new insights to developers and users in need of knowledge on how they can better address relevant problems, create appropriate solutions and help users with IFTs. This talk explains to the audience what tools are available for user-focused design. It also walks through a framework to guide the development of IFTs that is grounded in ethnographic methods and human-centered design, and how this framework is being used to conduct an IFT user community.

This work is currently being conducted by SecondMuse and Radio Free Asia through the Open Technology Fund.

ADDENDUM: But, what is “Ethnography”? What are “User Communities”?

  • Ethnography is defined as the study of culture and human motivation through qualitative research. Ethnographic practices complement usability studies by tapping into needs and motivations of people and users to give the “why” behind certain actions observed solely through conducting usability research. This method includes interviews, observing specific behaviors and understanding the material culture and surrounds of a target group.
  • A community is defined as a group of users that can be defined by geography, culture, shared experiences, or shared challenges. User is defined as someone who is currently utilizing a particular IFTs such as Tor, RedPhone, CryptoCat, and/or other privacy, security, anonymity and access enhancing technologies and methodologies created by developers or users themselves. A user may also be defined as a potential user of such technologies and tools.

Be the first to share
27 July 2015
Breaking Free from The Lean Startup religion: The Service Designer Manifesto
Breaking Free from The Lean Startup religion: The Service Designer Manifesto by Tenny Pinheiro Eise Books July 21, 2015 - 52 pages Free on Kindle Abstract Our civilization is facing complex, systemic and scary wicked problems. It is already known that …
17 July 2015
Interview with Amy Parnell, Director of UX at LinkedIn
SocialTimes recently chatted with Amy Parnell, the director of user experience at LinkedIn, to learn more about what goes into a redesign (or a slight tweak). What kind of research goes into design changes on LinkedIn, …
2 July 2015
Wells Fargo bank uses ethnographic research to design a better customer experience
During a Speaker Spotlight Q&A at Forrester’s CXNYC 2015 conference for customer experience professionals, Mark McCormick, Wells Fargo’s Head of Wholesale User Experience, talked about how past customer experiences shape consumer behaviors and how understanding …
2 July 2015
Interview with HTC’s head designer on experience design
Drew Bamford is the person responsible for making the ITC's experience design – how the company's devices feel and work like 'HTC phones' rather than just another Android handset. HTC's head designer's purvue is focused on …
27 June 2015
Designing for behavior as the critical path for patient engagement
Forget about features, design behaviors. Tying strategic behavior design to engagement outcomes will lead to more pratical and digitally relevant solutions, writes behavioral scientist Steph Habif in a conversation piece on the website of Prescribe …
13 June 2015
[Book] Designing Connected Products
Designing Connected Products: UX for the Consumer Internet of Things By Claire Rowland, Elizabeth Goodman, Martin Charlier, Ann Light, Alfred Lui O'Reilly Media, May 2015 726 pages [Amazon link] Abstract Networked thermostats, fitness monitors, and door locks show that the Internet …
9 June 2015
Alice Rawsthorn on the pros and cons of new digital interface design
Alice Rawsthorn asks why the aesthetics of something so pervasive [as digital user interfaces], the design of which is deeply sophisticated in other respects, are often underwhelming. Developing a definitive design aesthetic as Braun once did …
28 May 2015
The driverless car push ignores challenges of people and context
Autonomous or driverless cars are based on a technology push strategy. Beyond statements like “freeing up time”, “reducing accidents” and some simple scenarios on “remote parking” or “vehicle sharing”, there is far too little thought …

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.

2 July 2015
Getting citizens involved in protecting fragile energy environments

A new project funded under the FP7 European Commission framework is getting citizens involved in testing new tools for reducing energy consumption during peak loads, in the hope that its pilot program will set the new state of the art for protecting locations with fragile electricity supplies. One of France’s most fragile regions The Provence-Alpes-Côte […]

5 May 2015
Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록 in Design 4 Disaster

Design 4 Disaster features an engaging illustrated safety manual for ship passengers, a personal project by Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록. After the Korean ferry accident last year, Yuluck (who is Korean) wanted to find a way to make safety manuals more interesting to read. He spent one year designing an interactive safety guide […]

16 March 2015
Better Health and Wellbeing: Giving the elderly in Singapore sparkling golden years

Invitation: sharing session, Singapore, 30 March 2015   What are the hopes and fears of the elderly in Singapore? How can designers offer solutions that support the elderly in managing their health and wellness? What can healthcare professionals do to help them keep active? What role can technology play in the elderly’s daily lives? Design consultants […]

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.

See all articles