SummaryDecisions about products happen at many levelsPotential contribution of ethnographic approachesImproving how teams work to design things (studying designers/managers, not just the users)What market to build something forWhat thing to build (high-level)What specific features to include or capabilities to facilitate i.e. requirements gathering (low-level)
*PLEASE READ THE NOTES FOR THIS SLIDESET much of the nuance and discussion is in the notes section for this lecture.
This lecture is in part about thinking more broadly about possible outcomes of ethnographic approaches. How ethnographic approaches can inspire, guide the design of products, technologies that better serve the needs and desires of people. A little more broadly, its about the process of turning findings from field-based, qualitative studies into something other than written reports (books, journal articles), the realm of applied research -- not just generating high theory and adding to accumulated knowledge.
Talk about some of the contentious issues stirred up where ethnographic or quasi-ethnographic approaches have become part of design and technical research. Some of the debates and problems of oversimplification are highlighted in Dourishs critique. They arent just methodological challenges, but also the social dynamics of workplaces where design and development happens. The pressures of settings (usually corporate) where product design is done ROI.
Translating the rich qualitative insights into how people live in a particular social world, translating that into the design of things, can be unsatisfying at times. End with some comments on what gets lopped off in the quest to arrive at implications for designApplied Anthro:- How this particular stance towards research, towards understanding social relations, the world that youve dilligently apprenticed yourself to all semester. Discuss how it has been elaborated in more specific, a bit more narrowly defined research techniques, analysis practices aimed at (ultimately) innovating and designing products, technologies - software and hardware.- Some examples of the possibilities and pitfalls of doing qualitative work with an aim towards thinking about implications for design The legend of the green button (Lucy Suchman). An example of a project I worked on and still stand behind.**Here are a broader list of methods involved in applied research for design dividing between design innovation and design evaluation.
This is a fairly standard list of methods that you have probably encountered before, but I want to place field-based, qualitative, ethnographic research in the context of this list. So we need to talk about the class of user-centered methods for product design.
The Blomberg article pointed to the emergence of field-based, ethnographic techniques as a response to the limits of standard marketing research approaches such as focus groups.
these techniques vary in terms of how constrained or open-ended they arecan also distinguish between long-range innovation and more immediate design needs. Contextual inquiry (more on this in a minute) is an approach to observation and analysis of work settings for arriving at requirements for software, fleshing this out comprehensively and rigorously. Cultural probes and certain ethnographic approaches useful for a more lose discovery process less a priori structure to the way processes are documented.can distinguish between field-based and lab-based approachescan also distinguish between methods for innovating new technologies and methods for evaluating
you can see that I dont have ethnography on this list in keeping with Dourish critique that ethnography becomes too narrowly understood as primarily a method for producing products or design implications. Ethnography is NOT just method.**- An example of a particular approach derived from broader qualitative techniques, but customized for demands/interests of design decisions.- Applied purposes - in this case for requirements gathering for software development (other classes to get more this class a great foundation for that ask Thomas about the HCI class? Nancys class on Needs and Usability Assessment can take instead of or both.)- contextual inquiry is very rigorous, systematic process for developing software. some kinship with ethnographys concern with context, interconnectedness, in situ, heavily reliant on observation combined with questions/interview. The totality of ethnography covers much more than that a broader holism, CI offers a kind of a priori structure of the things you should be documenting and how. The reflexivity of the researcher not really part of this particular approach. contextual inquiry is a set of customer-centered techniques integrated into a design process. It involves several different ways of diagramming work roles and business processes. ** encapsulates the frustrations many researchers feel about doing this kind of applied research and how it is received/understood (internally, within the research community, by the public/media)
- an understanding of ethnography in the corporate/product development domain that equates requirements gathering with ethnography is actually very powerful and pretty intractable inspiring features. Reinvention of a story - the legend of the green button. Popular media trope.Exchange between a journalist and Lucy Suchman about anthropologists working in corporations:Spencer: I was, however, hopingyou could clarify one thing: Did your research on the photocopier at Xerox PARC [Palo Alto Research Center] lead to any new products being built at Xerox? The legend is that you were credited with creating the green copy button at Xerox or some other easy-to-use features. If you could explain that one mystery I would greatly appreciate itLS: Re the clarification, this is something I would definitely welcome your writing about!Ironically, the story about the green button (as I guess with many legends) is actuallythe opposite of what I would characterize as my contribution, which was rather toquestion the green button's efficacy! This was in the context of a study of what was named the 'operability problem' on the 8200 copier, a machine released in the late1980s and marketed as easy to use, in part through a TV ad that focused on pushingthe green start button as all one needed to know in order to use it. After itsrelease Xerox received a number of complaints from customers that the machine wastoo complicated, which initiated the project at PARC on which my study was based.As a finding she questioned the wisdom and viability of marketing any machine as easy to use. She argued that however improved the interface might be (and there was certainly room for improvement), it would never eliminate the need for active sense-making on the part of the user, and that this is the case for any unfamiliar artifact, however technologically sophisticated the user might be. the imperative to market new technologies as if they can be incorporated into working practices without any upfront investment in resources for learning is a false economy, one for which front line workers usually bear the cost.Spencer: Thanks Lucy. It is clear indeed but begs the question: Did any of your work at PARClead to any new products or product improvements that made things easier to use ormore useful? Im wondering if there is one clear example you can