User Scenarios

Just read a good article by Adam Greenfield about the limits of user scenarios.

I believe that if user scenarios are not based on anything other than the opinions of a bunch of people sitting in a conference room, then yes, they will invariably make rosy business scenarios that probably will not happen.

On the other hand, if a user scenario is based on real research, then maybe the (less honorable) human motivations that Greenfield alludes to would be captured.

My inclination would be to make the following:

  1. A user scenario (based on ethnogrpahic research) depicting how life is currently lived by people.
  2. A new user scenario that takes into account both the fabulous new technology on offer and how life is actually lived by people.

What do people think about it?

My big takeaway from the piece was that we focus our scenarios on safe and acceptable scenarios, based on research or not. That we don’t openly consider downloading pr0n or lying or creating viruses or whatever “negative” uses may result. And, perhaps that is based on the believe that we don’t even acknowledge those uses, let alone design for them, because we don’t want to be morally culpable for something that we don’t believe in or our clients or customers don’t believe in.

It’s not an easy problem to solve - you have to balance a lot of concerns - when considering these “transgressive” uses, but I guess I’m struck by the fact that we don’t even TALK about them, let alone put them into scenarios…

I HAVE put negative stuff into scenarios before (I must have been either too perverted or too insensitive to my clients’ morality). I did so only because it reflected some of what I observed in people.

User scenarios are at best hazy predictions, and at worst, a wishful, rosy projection. That said, I am not convinced that if something seems “negative,” that it is necessarily a better insight. It is just a different insight.

Some negative assumptions about human nature, coupled with technology are examined in the interesting work of Dunne and Raby

I suppose that a more expansive view of user scenarios can be found in William Gibson’s fiction - i.e. when he sums up his approach with something like this: “I take plausible technologies of the near future, and then imagine them in the hands of common criminals.”