Posts tagged “details”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Why Evan Williams of Twitter Demoted Himself [] – [Creating a small but deliberate interaction – say, logging onto a computer – that serves as an engine of culture change in an organization] Twitter’s executives talk about the “Dunbar number” — the maximum number of people, generally believed to be 150, with whom one person can have strong relationships. This effort, mind you, comes from a company with a business model that fosters a multitude of ever-growing — and largely glancing — interactions among Twitter’s users. “I’ve never seen a company so focused on avoiding the Dunbar number,” says Adam Bain, who recently joined Twitter from the News Corporation as head of global revenue. “You can tell Ev planned it out.” Each time employees log on to their computers, for instance, they see a photo of a colleague, with clues and a list of the person’s hobbies, and must identify the person. And notes from every meeting are posted for all employees to read.

Forever in authentic blue jeans

Intersting recent ad for Lucky Jeans

Two details of the ad:

I am impressed how the overall aesthetic of the ad just oozes authenticity. There’s real craft and attention to detail, leading to a strong sense of quality. But all these details they are calling out are examples of manufactured fakery: making new jeans look like worn jeans. They’ve taken inauthenticity to such a level of quality that it becomes authentic in its own way!

For more on this theme, see my recent interactions column with Stokes Jones, On Authenticity

Loss of Context II

From Secret Lives of Comic Store Employees,’s aspiring-to-anthropological-but-no-dice exploration of the subculture comes:

Biggest pet peeve about customers?
The perfectionists. Like the clerks with the eggs, inspecting each one.

That makes no sense. They’ve captured literally what they think the interviewee uttered (but not what they said, and certainly not what they meant). They should know enough contemporary culture to remember that Kevin Smith’s 1994 film Clerks featured a customer who would obsessively check every egg in every carton.

This guy is going through all of the eggs. Look.

An ODD MAN sits on the floor, surrounded by cartons of eggs, all opened. He grabs a carton from the cooler case, pops it open, and examines each egg carefully.

This is a regular challenge in interviewing. We must embrace enough of the respondent’s context (and Kevin Smith movies are absolutely within the context of a Comic Store Employee) in order to understand what we’re hearing. Simply reporting it will produce misleading garbage.

Also see: Loss of Context – where the interviewer/editor mixes up Digital Equipment Corporation and a digital equipment corporation.



In response to Colin McKay’s comment on my last post, I felt impelled to put up this detail of the TRL shirt I was wearing at the PE shoot.

Being the ironic scamp that I am 😉 , I had altered the shirt when I first bought it. (In the original picture, it’s hard to see the alteration–a letter ‘L’ in red marker after the word ‘trivia,’ so no slight on Colin for not having noticed it!)

The interesting thing here is how strongly these kinds of details–T-shirts, logos, cultural touchpoints–broadcast messages, and how easily the messaging can get confused if all the details are not available.

The complexity of messaging and the importance of small details is something worth thinking about in the context of ethnographic research. In any given observation or interaction, are enough of the crucial details coming across? Is the context clear? Are there layers of meaning?

In order to parse what are actual data and what are our own ideas triggered by real world phenomena (which are an important but different kind of artifact), it’s so essential to surface, probe and challenge our interpretations and assumptions.

This probing and clarifying-the separation of observation, analysis, and synthesis–is a significant piece of what makes conducting ethnographic research different from simply going out and watching people.

The Media Can’t Get The Right Message About The Medium

Rep. Foley’s Explicit Messages are big news. But ask yourself this, based on what you’ve read so far. Were the inappropriate communications in email? Or IM? Or both? I really can’t tell. What I’ve seen is sloppy reporting, where a non-technical publication doesn’t bother to distinguish between very different technologies. It was a running joke when reporters kept calling Undercover a “chat room” or a “message board” or an “online forum” instead of a mailing list – you don’t expect much accuracy (or interest in accuracy) from entertainment reporters (I think one story in ’97 or so referred to me as Eve Portigal) and those technologies were somewhat newer back then. But now we’ve got front page coverage by hard-news journalists in all the top publications, presumably with fact-checkers and lawyers looking this stuff over.

Don’t these sort of details matter?


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