Posts tagged “ethnography”

ChittahChattah Quickies

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Social science meets computer science at Yahoo [SF Chronicle] – Yahoo Labs has bolstered its ranks of social scientists, adding highly credentialed cognitive psychologists, economists and ethnographers from top universities around the world. At approximately 25 people, it's still the smallest group within the research division, but one of the fastest growing.

    The recruitment effort reflects a growing realization at Yahoo that computer science alone can't answer all the questions of the modern Web business. As the novelty of the Internet gives way, Yahoo and other 21st century media businesses are discovering they must understand what motivates humans to click and stick on certain features, ads and applications – and dismiss others out of hand.

    Yahoo Labs is taking a scientific approach to these questions, leveraging its massive window onto user behavior to set up a series of controlled experiments (identifying information is always masked) and employing classic ethnography techniques like participant observation and interviews.

  • Domino’s "The Pizza Turnaround" [YouTube] – Domino's Pizza uses customer research to spawn product redevelopment, and then uses that process to promote their improved product. Note the negative quotes posted on the walls of their office.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Don Norman on Ethnography and Innovation – Some great commentary on Norman's piece (discussed here as well) including the very exciting revelation that Edison did something very much like ethnography!
  • General Motors – The Lab – It’s a pilot program for GM, an interactive design research community in the making. Here you can get to know the designers, check out some of their projects, and help them get to know you. Like a consumer feedback event without the one-way glass.

    We work on ideas that will influence our future vehicles. We want to share our ideas, inventions and pre-production vehicle designs. We want to build the right cars and trucks for your future. We want your opinion.

  • Iceberg Digital Book Reader for the iPhone – Digital books as content, as hardware, as a platform, as an OS, as an app? Interesting to see a range of approaches appearing. Iceberg use the iTunes store to sell the books, which seems like a brilliant strategy, leveraging a storefront/distribution platform that already exists.
  • Steal These Books – From Wikipedia page about book theft, a set of articles that describe what books get stolen from bookstores (independent, chain, and campus) and libraries.
  • Archaeology’s Hoaxes, Fakes, and Strange Sites – A large set of links to articles about fake archeological-type stuff (discoveries, artifacts, and the like). How and why.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Stereotyping people by favorite authors – In our Reading Ahead research, we heard about how people were both exploring and communicating identity through their choices of reading material. Identity is a complex internal and external mechanism, where we (explicitly or implicitly) project outwards to imagine how we might appear to others…an internal act that feels or draws from the external. So the existence of lists like this, while tongue-in-cheek, validate that this process is real.
    (via @kottke)
  • Scott Baldwin on the fine art of listening – Try changing how you listen. Try to capture the message (listen with your ears, mind, eyes and heart). Make eye contact, use an open posture and be attentive to body language, volume, tone and pace. Look deeper than just the meaning of the words and try to understand the reason, feelings or intent beyond the words. Be empathetic, objective and analytical.
  • An iPhone app for ethnography – Really? I haven't tried it but I am not encouraged by the description. What we're looking for doesn't always fit into predetermined categories (indeed, how are you to be innovative if the type of data you are gathering is already classifiable?) and there's a danger in conflating data with insights (or as the blogger here writes "outcomes"). Raw data is overwhelming and takes time and skill to process, if you want to find out anything new. Now, we spend a lot of our time just wrangling (copying, renaming, organizing, sharing, etc.) all sorts of data, so I'm up for tools that can help with that; but I think it's easy to go overboard and create tools for uninteresting – or unreliable – research results
  • Lisa Loeb Eyewear Collection – Not an SNL parody ad from 1997, it's a real product line for 2010 (via @CarlAlviani)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Storylistening for consumer insight – There are many ways of collecting stories but here are three that may be new to you:
    * Anecdote circles
    * Naive interviewers
    * Mass narrative capture
    Collecting stories is not about finding the one perfect story that describes a brand or a consumer experience. Rather it is about gathering a broad spread of qualitative data. Individually a story may be seen to be banal but their power lies in the cumulative effect of many stories.

    Interpreting stories
    * Experts
    * Machines
    * Participants

    Story interpretation is best done by a range of groups (e.g. consumers themselves, a marketing department) that may have differing perspectives on the same situation. The most appropriate techniques often avoid direct analysis initially and allow different groups to immerse themselves in the stories to produce nuanced interpretations of the consumers' world.
    (via DinaMehta.com)

  • Sony, B&N promise to rekindle rights for book owners – Boing Boing recently talked to Sony's Steve Haber, President of Digital Reading, about its flagship ebook reader, named the "Daily Edition." "Our commitment is that you bought it, you own it," Haber said. "Our hope is to see this as ubiquitous. Buy on any device, read on any device. … We're obligated to have DRM but we don't pull content back."
  • OnFiction is a magazine with the aim of developing the psychology of fiction. – Using theoretical and empirical perspectives, we endeavour to understand how fiction is created, and how readers and audience members engage in it.
  • What design researchers can learn from hostage negotiators – Interesting to look at various collaboration and communication scenarios and unpack what's going on to define some principles that can be reused. Not sure how much new about design research is brought to light here, but the framing may make it more memorable or understandable. Always glad to see the emphasis on rapport, but I don't agree with their hostage-rapport approach as a one-size-fits-all method for design research rapport building. I also think they underplay the emotional levels that good design research can uncover. Beyond frustration with products, we hear stories about cancer, divorce, infertility, hopes, dreams, and beyond. All very charged stuff.
  • If you outlaw meep, only outlaws will say meep – Tthe nonsense word started with the 1980s Muppet character Beaker. Bob Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University, said he first heard students meep about a year ago during a class screening of a television show.
    "Something happened and one of them said 'Meep,'" he said. "And then they all started doing it."

    The meeps, he said, came from all of the students in the class in rapid-fire succession. When he asked them what that meant, they said it didn't really mean anything.

    But meeping doesn't seem to be funny to Danvers High School Principal Thomas Murray, who threatened to suspend students caught meeping in school.

    In an interview with the Salem News, Murray said automated calls were made to parents, warning them of the possible punishment after administrators learned that students were conspiring online to mass-meep in one part of the school building.

    (via MeFi)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Sleep Dealer – Alex Rivera's 2008 film turns his Why Cybraceros? political-commentary 5-minute short into a feature film about an immigrant labor solution where impoverished Mexican workers use implants to remotely control robots in other countries, performing crappy dangerous jobs no one one in those countries wants to do. But they stay in Mexico to be exploited, rather than coming over the border.

    It's a powerful idea and the movie's history from agit-prop to entertainment meshes nicely with some of the points I made about science fiction recently in interactions magazine, in We Are Living in a Sci-Fi World.

  • Cybracero Systems – The ultimate in remote control. Workers doing whatever you need, from our state of the art facility in Tijuana, Mexico.
  • Why Cybraceros? (1997 video) – Link to the 1997 video
  • Why Cybraceros? – As agriculture has become a larger and larger industry in America, it has become harder and harder to find American workers willing to do the most basic farm tasks. Picking, pruning, cutting, and handling farm produce are all simple, but delicate tasks. Work that requires such attention to detail remains a challenge for farm technologists, and as of yet, cannot be automated. As the American work force grows increasingly sophisticated, it is even harder to find the hand labor to do these grueling tasks.

    Under the Cybracero program American farm labor will be accomplished on American soil, but no Mexican workers will need to leave Mexico. Only the labor of Mexicans will cross the border, Mexican workers will no longer have to.

    Using high speed internet connections, directly to Mexico, American farms and Mexican laborers will be directly connected. These workers will then be able to remotely control robotic farm workers, known as Cybraceros, from their village in Mexico.

  • Organizational Culture 101: A Practical How-To For Interaction Designers – Great piece by Sam Ladner. Success requires so much more than "doing the work" and this is a great look at some of the softer-yet-killer aspects of "consulting."

Innovative Outcomes Take Years To Launch

In 2000, prior to Portigal Consulting, we conducted an ethnographic study with Sony to “provide awareness of unarticulated consumer perceptions about digital imaging on which to base future product development decisions…generating a range of new product and service concepts.”

Over the years we’ve seen Sony launch products that are similar to ones we proposed (see example here). We identify opportunities for our clients; the path they take to develop (or not) can be complex and fraught, and many opportunities are not addressed in the marketplace (although we find our clients value how our work helps them make that decision).

Here’s the latest:
party

Sony today introduced the Party-shot personal photographer -an innovative camera dock that pans 360 degrees and tilts 24 degrees, automatically detects faces, adjusts composition and takes photos for you.

This device makes it easy to capture more natural expressions and fun, candid moments of you, your family and friends without having to hire a photographer.

“With the Party-shot personal photographer, you no longer have to worry about taking photos when you are with your family or friends,” said Shigehiko Nakayama, digital imaging accessories product manager at Sony Electronics. “Party-shot captures candid moments that tell natural life stories and also offers a new style of photography that enriches time with your family and friends.

From our 2000 presentation to Sony

Market Opportunity : Freedom to Participate
Today
Defined set of occasions where

  • camera visibility/ interference is possible and accepted
  • cameraman takes on an assumed role

Opportunity to Increase Usage

  • Design cameras that are less bulky, obtrusive, “precious”
  • Enable experiences to be preserved without requiring someone to operate a camera

Our concept (to illustrate the opportunity) emphasized video over still
remote

Product Feature: Full Remote Control

  • Gives capturer full control over video camera while away from device
  • Includes viewfinder, volume, zoom/pan/tilt, battery/tape indicator
  • Capturer is not “tethered” to camera and can participate

Sony isn’t the only one to launch products that we identified. As we identified needs and proposed solutions, it’s inevitable that as time goes by, competitors will identify those needs and develop products. For example, three years ago I blogged about Granny’s Inbox where HP launched something similar to one of our Sony concepts.

Elsewhere, we see other products that have been developed by competitors since our work for Sony in 2000:

Digital Blue’s Tony Hawk Helmetcam
tonyhawk
and our X-treme Cam concept
X-tremeCam

  • Rugged, mountable video camera that captures short clips from the user’s point of view
  • Sharable, relivable document of exciting experiences
  • Appeals to teens and/or sports participants
  • Must be made inexpensive enough to justify its very specific (and thus limited) functionality

Hasbro’s VuGo Multimedia System
vugo
and our MPEG-Man concept
mpegman

  • Plays short clips of digital video
  • Like a photo album, device can be passed around for sharing in a larger group
  • Connect to TV, PC, or projector
  • Better group interactions for sharing video
  • Position as everyday, casual, social device rather than hi-tech or novelty

Casio EXILIM (and other models of still and video cameras from other manufacturers) feature Pre-Record Mode where

photos are not only taken at the moment the shutter release is pressed – they’re also taken before that! With continuous recording of up to 30 photos per second, a maximum of 25 photos can be saved in the camera’s buffer memory – even before the shutter release is pressed. The 25th image then corresponds to the photo that was taken when the shutter release button was pressed. This means that, in addition to the photo that you took at the moment the shutter release button was pressed, you can choose from a further 24 images that occurred just before that moment.

and our Capture Buffer concept (video but could be used for still as well)
capture

  • Video camera is always capturing and discarding footage
  • When user initiates recording, option of saving the contents of the buffer
  • People will no longer miss the beginning of what they want to film
  • Slightly more skill required by users – where was the camera pointing before the button is pressed?

Buffalo TeraStation Home Server
nas

and our Digital Memory Vault concept
vault

  • Permanent digital storage for stills and video
  • Indexing, organizing, online publishing
  • Random access retrieval
  • Simplifies organization and retrieval of images (and video)
  • Leverages familiar (to PC users) activity of searching (i.e., web search)
  • Appeals to customers who are already invested in digital imaging, or in legacy imaging (i.e., family albums)
  • Challenge to deliver expected bullet-proof reliability at an acceptable price point

Samsung TL225 with front LCD to prompt subject to smile, etc.
samsung

and our Teleprompter Cam concept (video but could be applied to still)
teleprompter

  • Image on screen prompts subject to pose for video
  • Helps people feel comfortable in front of a video camera
  • Positioning challenge: though most images are posed and theatrical, our culture privileges the capture of candid and “natural”

Reading Ahead: Secondary Research (part 2)

Reading ahead logo with space above

Here’s some more articles, projects, websites, and other online ephemera that we’ve come across since we posted part 1.

  • A series of humorous videos from Green Apple Books comparing the Kindle to a book
  • Books and Browsers (audio link) – Dave Gray (IDEA2008)

    The book as a form factor has been around for about 2,000 years, since Julius Caesar first decided to fold up a scroll, accordion-style, and mark the pages for later reference. In 1455, Aldus Manutius was the first to publish the portable paperback, and it has remained relatively unchanged since. XPLANE Founder and Chairman Dave Gray explores several questions about the future of the book and the web browser.

  • Sony has launched the latest salvo

    a sub-$300 touch-screen “Reader Touch Edition” and the $199 “Reader Pocket Edition,” which features a 5-inch display. The company is also lowering prices of ebooks. New releases and best-sellers will all be $9.99, matching Amazon’s price point for the first time.

  • NPR Science Friday broadcast exploring Who Owns Your Digital Data?
  • NPR on Amazon removing Orwell books

    Lynn, you cover books and publishing for NPR, so do you have a Kindle or an e-book Reader?

    LYNN NEARY: Actually, I don’t, Linda. In fact, my cubical at NPR and my night table at home are loaded down with good, old-fashioned books because even though I’ve actually seen the Kindle work and I’ve talked to a lot of people who love it, I still can’t imagine reading some of my favorite novels on the Kindle. What about you?

    WERTHEIMER: I love it. It’s especially nice for traveling. I really do not leave home without it. But I did have a very peculiar experience with Kindle. I was reading a book and all of a sudden, I was back at the beginning of the book. So I thought I’d punched some button somehow. But no, what I had was a book in two pieces.

  • CHART OF THE DAY: Most People Still Have Never Seen A Kindle

    Some 40% of North Americans who responded to a Forrester Research survey in Q2 2009 had heard of, but had never seen, an e-reader. Another 17% had never heard of one. But ownership more than doubled year-over-year to 1.5%.

  • A short piece from Steve Haber, who developed the Sony Reader
  • Where there are bookshelves, there will be books!

    When Eddie Bernays, the father of modern publicity, was asked by a group of book publishers to increase book sales, he said, “Where there are bookshelves, there will be books.” And then he went on to convince architects, construction companies, and interior designers to install bookshelves in new homes. That helped to launch the modern day publishing and selling of books. (thanks to Joshua Treuhaft)

  • Cathy Marshall’s publications about reading, interaction, electronic periodicals, and ebooks
  • Smarter Books – Envisioning the uses & future of print, electronic, & new media books

    This site is dedicated to design thinking for re-envisioning books, publishing models, and the cognitive activity we call reading. The many markets and models for books and distribution are changing radically and continuously. We, authors and designers, need to share what we have learned and are doing to recreate the forms, meaning, and thinking of books of all kinds. Sponsored by Redesign Research

  • The unbook is a concept originally developed by Jay Cross. The concept evolved based on discussions between Jay and Dave Gray
  • The Diamond Age is a postcyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson. The Primer in The Diamond Age is a complex and highly elaborate descendant of today’s hypertext.

    Unlike the very static version we are familiar with today, the Primer is fully interactive. It not only offers the reader an open-ended narrative, but it also changes to the reader’s demands, among many other features.

  • Vogon Heavy Industries is proud to make the The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy available to Earth Internet users under licence from Megadodo Publications, Ursa Minor.
  • Visualization of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book
  • Fore-edge painting – Pictures along the page edges, hidden behind gilt
  • Exhaustive list of book terminology
  • Digital Book 09, a conference put on by IPDF (International Digital Publishing Forum)
  • Wholesale eBook Sales Statistics

3 spots remaining for Moving from Data to Insights to Opportunities

home_2009

As of this writing there are only 3 1 spots remaining for my EPIC 2009 workshop Moving from Data to Insights to Opportunities, September 1 in Chicago.

One of the most persistent factors limiting the impact of ethnography in business is that research projects often stop with a cataloging findings and implications rather than generating opportunities that directly enable the findings. How can designers and researchers work with ethnographic data to create new things for business to do?

Participants in this workshop will learn an effective framework for synthesizing raw data into insights, and then creatively using those insights to develop a range of business concepts that respond to those insights. While the framework includes a step to identify key filters that will ultimately prioritize across all generated concepts, the emphasis in this workshop will be to think as broadly as possible during ideation, truly strengthening the creative link between “data” and “action.” By the end of the workshop, participants will have developed a range of high-level concepts that respond to a business problem and integrate a fresh, contextual understanding of that problem.

You can check out slides and audio from an abbreviated version at BayCHI or come to the abbreviated version at Web 2.0 New York, November 17.

Upcoming Speaking Gigs

It looks to be a busy time between now and the end of the year, with a lot of exciting opportunities. Some details still TBD; I’ll update with links when we get ’em. Meanwhile, if you’re going to be at any of these presentations, please let me know!

Reading Ahead: Participatory Design

Reading ahead logo with space above

Portigal-Consulting_PD8_web
Tracy and her younger son thinking about possibilities for books and reading devices

Our fieldwork sessions often include a piece in which we ask participants to brainstorm and fantasize about the future.

In an earlier post, we talked about the simple models we were building for the Reading Ahead interviews.

Portigal-Consulting_PD1_web
Book and device models for participatory design activity

We wanted to put something in people’s hands to help them show us what the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future” could be and do. (This fieldwork approach borrows from participatory design.)

We’ve had clients come out in the field with us and say after an interview, “That person didn’t give us any ideas,” so it’s important to clarify that we don’t expect this kind of activity to directly produce marketable ideas. Rather, it gives people another mode for expressing themselves, and it’s great for helping them communicate things which may not always be easy to verbalize, like:

  • Their desires
  • What they think should exist
  • What problems they are trying to solve
  • What seems acceptable and what seems outlandish to them
  • Preferences and in what ways they would like something to be different

Portigal-Consulting_PD7
Chris uses the device model to help express his thoughts about navigation

Often for us, the very act of making the props for an activity suggests new ways of using them. In this case, while making a blank cover for the “future book” model, we realized that we could also make a blank inner page spread.

Portigal-Consulting_PD2_web
Holding the “book of the future” model

As it turned out, this meant that when we were done with the sessions, people had created very nice book models for us, with a cover and inner spread.

Portigal-Consulting_PD5_web
Portigal-Consulting_PD6_web
Erica’s “telescoping shopping bag” book with digital annotations, hyperlinks, and built-in dictionary

Part of the preparation for each interview session was to get the models ready with new blank paper. Here I am on the trunk of my car, prepping the models before an interview in San Francisco.

Portigal-Consulting_Dan1

Now that the fieldwork is done, we have a great collection of models made by the people we interviewed.

Portigal-Consulting_PD3_web
Artifacts from participants’ “future book” ideation

Portigal-Consulting-PD4_web

The last section (copied below) of our Topline Summary synthesizes some of what we gleaned from this part of the fieldwork. These are just quick hits; we’ll develop any themes and recommendations that come out of these activities much further in the analysis and synthesis phase of the project.


Excerpt from Topline Summary: Participant ideation about the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future”

NOTE: The first thing a number of the participants said when asked about what the “book of the future” could be and do was that it’s pretty hard to improve on the book-it works very well the way it is. In addition to all the qualities already mentioned, books are

  • Instant on-off

  • Durable
  • But people did have ideas. Here are some of them:

  • Interactive
  • Put yourself in the story
  • Leave the story for more information
  • Choose from alternate endings, versions
  • Size-shifting
  • Able to morph from bigger size for reading to smaller for transporting
  • Retain the book form while adding functionality
  • Book form with replaceable content: a merging of book and device, with a cover, and page-turning but content is not fixed-it can be many different books
  • Books that contain hyperlinks, electronic annotations, multimedia, etc.
  • Privacy
  • Hide what you’re reading from others, hide annotations, hide your personal book list and lend your device to someone (with content for them)
  • Projecting
  • A device that projects words that float above it, so that the reader doesn’t have to hold the device in their hands
  • Reading Ahead: First day of fieldwork

    Reading ahead logo with space above

    Here’s what my day looks like today–3 interview sessions starting this morning in Soquel, then up to San Francisco, and then over to Vallejo where I’ll finish up around 9 pm.

    Tuesday-route-web

    I’ve tried to schedule everything so I’ll have time in between each interview to write notes. It’s amazing how hectic what seems like an ample schedule often becomes once you factor in traffic, parking, eating, checking email, and the general miscellany of a day.

    I got everything ready last night: video camera, still camera, release forms, models and materials for participatory design activities at the end of the interview session.

    fieldwork-prep-web

    I went over the interview guide, and am feeling really good about it. I always get kind of charged up when I run the interview through in my mind the night before fieldwork starts. There’s this unique feeling that comes from knowing that I’m about to go out and find out things from people that, sitting at my desk the night before I go, I can’t even imagine.

    ChittahChattah Quickies

    • Steve Portigal presenting "We've Done All This Research: Now What?" at Web 2.0 Expo New York on 11/17 – As designers increasingly are themselves conducting contextual research to inform their design work, they may find they are holding onto a trove of raw data but with little awareness of how to turn it into design. How can designers and researchers work with this type of data to have the most impact on design and business?

      Participants in this workshop, collaborating in teams, will learn an effective framework for synthesizing raw data (to be gathered before and/or during the workshop) into insights, and then creatively using those insights to develop a range of business concepts that respond to those insights.

    Reading Ahead: Secondary Research (part 1)

    Reading ahead logo with space above

    Starting any project means we inevitably come across any number of articles that pertain to the topic or the themes that emerge from the research and synthesis.

    Sometimes we’ll dedicate some time at the beginning to collect articles and summarize ’em, but more often we’ll just do a quick scan and opportunistically look for issues to inform our recruiting and planning for fieldwork.

    Here’s what we’re reading now (and we’ll do a part 2 if and when we find more articles of interest):

    Reading Ahead: Figuring out who to talk to

    Reading ahead logo with space above

    People always ask us, “how do you find the people for your projects?”

    Figuring out how to identify appropriate people to interview for a project is all-important. For Reading Ahead, we know we need people who are active readers. What constitutes an “active reader?” We’re defining it as people who read books at least three times a week, in multiple locations. We want people who are engaged in the behavior at a level where they will have lots of experiences from which to draw. We also know that we want to look at how people’s behavior changes/doesn’t change/is supported by/is influenced when reading books in print vs. reading eBooks using a device.

    When we have established the criteria for participating in the research, we typically use a specialized recruiting company to find people. We write a screener, which has a series of specific questions to identify people who meet our criteria.

    screener
    Screener excerpt, Reading Ahead project, 2009

    Finding the right people can be quite complex, and for some projects, we’ve written screeners that are more than 10 pages long. If we’re looking for people who do activities X and Y, in locations 1, 2, and 3, but have never done activity Z-well, you get the idea!

    In this project, the criteria are simpler, and we’ll be doing our own recruiting. In fact, if you’re in the Bay Area and an avid reader or Kindle user, let us know and maybe we can talk with you!

    Update: We put together a representative screener that is formal enough to be given to a recruiting firm, even though we aren’t doing that for Reading Ahead. You can download it here.

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