More articles about ethnography

Nice to see one of these articles that mentions some different providers (Jump, KDA) than what we usually see in the press.
Good intro piece with lots of EXAMPLES and a funny bit where “usability testing” is a possible synonym for ethnography.

includes a couple of sidebars describing the flow of a project and the cost of a project

"[ABC and ESPN] conducted an ethnographic study from February to August 2004, in which 157 homes were given DVRs. Of those households, 67 returned the DVRs, finding either a bad experience with installation or that the cost was too high.

In terms of the homes that stuck with the DVRs, roughly half said they didn’t watch more TV, but that they did watch more efficiently–but that doesn’t mean they skipped through commercials, merely that they were able to watch desired shows according to their busy schedules. For example, some would watch shows on weekends, and others, later at night, Bulgrin said."

Anyone know more about this? Since their biggest insights are about usage, I suspect they relied on survey-type questions and not what we might consider actual ethnography. But HEY they put the devices in context, so that’s almost as good, right? It could be bad reporting, but my suspicion says the study was rather shallow (and the large numbers of users supports that too, doesn’t it?)
“Stalking the Wild Youth: Mobile Phone Design for Teenagers”

includes this really nice conclusion

More importantly, does Taylor believe that ethnography is an acceptable form of research for mobile design? “I think the mobile industry, as a whole, has been far more accepting of fieldwork and particularly qualitative methods of data collection and analysis, as opposed to the broader technology industry,” he says.

However, he thinks “the point of qualitative fieldwork is often missed. Both manufacturers and operators see it as a means to add yet more data to a bank of quantitative measures, so that claims such as x is better than y, or x will occur more often than y can be made. The trouble is, qualitative, and specifically ethnographic, fieldwork does not lend itself to this form of data. Rather, its focus is on how things – such as phones – come to be made meaningful in everyday life and how they come to play into the social organization of routine interactions. Quite simply, ethnographies are not in the business of casual explanations of the world. Instead, they aim to recover the taken-for-granted and ordinary phenomena that come to constitute our social lives. A fundamental shift in thinking is needed if they are going to make the most from this perspective to design things that will be truly useful.”

Interesting about the PVR’s… I’m not surprised about the returns due to complex setup. Home entertainment products are beyond out of control… There are no standards for interoperability or human interface.

The ethnographic comments are interesting too… I’ve witnessed it misused time and time again by “fact-driven” organizations like marketing. In one case, a large project was canceled because the customer saw and used the research as “validation” rather than design research. Where we uncovered opportunity, they saw damning evidence. Painful! The lessen is that designers need to own qualitative research, and never confuse it with the quantitative research that frequently drives the front end.