1 March 2009

What Margaret Mead could teach techs

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Genevieve Bell
Fortune Magazine profiles Dr Genevieve Bell, an Australian-born anthropologist and ethnographer, and the Director of User Experience in Intel Corporation’s Digital Home Group.

Part of Bell’s job is to help the company understand quirks of human behavior that could determine whether its strategies fly or flop.

With computers taking new forms and turning up in new places […], that job is harder than ever to do.

These days the tech landscape is an unpredictable jumble. A sampling: Consumers (particularly in Europe) are clamoring for shrunken, underpowered PCs called netbooks, much to the surprise of the major PC makers.

Amazon’s Kindle 2 wireless e-book reader is in high enough demand to claim the No. 1 spot in its electronics store — beating out the iPod Touch. (Not bad considering Steve Jobs last year dismissed the Kindle’s chances because “people don’t read anymore.”)

Foreclosures are reaching historic highs — yet in the depths of the worst recession in recent memory, consumers are still ordering movies from Netflix, buying downloaded software for the iPhone, and shelling out for wireless data plans.

You need an anthropologist to begin making sense of it all.

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