Covert Naturalistic Observation

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How can we observe natural behavior if our mere presence affects what people do? Don’t tell them that you’re observing them. Being covert means observing behaviors in their natural contexts without any intervention or influence by the researcher and without participants knowing that they’re being observed.

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Covert Naturalistic Observation

  1. 1. Jim Ross Design Philadelphia: The Bleeding Edge of Design Research October 16, 2013
  2. 2. Covert Naturalistic Observation Jim Ross Design Philadelphia: The Bleeding Edge of Design Research October 16, 2013
  3. 3. User research is unnatural. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 4
  4. 4. User research is unnatural. Source: Flickr – Thomas Link Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross Source: Flickr – Thomas Link 5
  5. 5. User research is unnatural. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 6
  6. 6. We get informed consent from participants. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 7
  7. 7. But knowing that you’re being observed affects behavior. Source: Flickr – Blue Oxen Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 8
  8. 8. Covert naturalistic observation Source: Flickr – Sean Hobson Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 10
  9. 9. We usually use overt naturalistic observation. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 11
  10. 10. It’s rare that we use covert naturalistic observation. Source: Flickr – James Emery Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 12
  11. 11. Who uses covert naturalistic observation? Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 13
  12. 12. Who uses covert naturalistic observation? Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 14
  13. 13. Who uses covert naturalistic observation? Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 15
  14. 14. Covert naturalistic observation
  15. 15. It allows you to observe realistic, natural behavior. Source: Flickr – David Hillowitz Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 17
  16. 16. Trying to remain covert makes observation more difficult. Source: Flickr – Lars Plougmann Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 18
  17. 17. You can’t study interfaces or close up interactions. Source: Flickr – Walter Lim Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 19
  18. 18. You can’t ask questions, so you rely on observation only. Source: Flickr – Danielle Scott Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 20
  19. 19. Ethical concerns about consent, privacy, and deception Source: Flickr – dustpuppy Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 21
  20. 20. Covert naturalistic observation
  21. 21. Studying behavior and interactions in a public place Source: Flickr – Drew XXX Source: Flickr – dustpuppy Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 23
  22. 22. Covert naturalistic observation
  23. 23. 1. Plan what you want to observe. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 25
  24. 24. 2. Gather intelligence – do some research on: • • • • The domain User characteristics Tasks and behaviors Existing research Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 26
  25. 25. 3. Scope out the location ahead of time: layout, people, activity level. Source: Flickr – Ben Salter Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 27
  26. 26. 4. Consider notifying management and security. Source: Flickr – Elvert Barnes Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 28
  27. 27. 5. Observe with partners. Source: Flickr – Carey Akin Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 29
  28. 28. 6. Observe over several shorter sessions to see: • More people • Different situations • Different time periods Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 30
  29. 29. 6. Observe over several shorter sessions to avoid: • Fatigue • Information overload • “Getting caught” Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 31
  30. 30. 7. Blend in – dress like everyone else. Source: Flickr – Michael Ocampo Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 32
  31. 31. 7. Blend in – do what others are doing. Source: Flickr – James Emery Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 33
  32. 32. 7. Blend in – use a mobile device. Source: Flickr – Elvert Barnes Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross Source: Flickr – Elvert Barnes 34
  33. 33. 8. Don’t take obvious notes. Source: Flickr – Geek Calendar Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 35
  34. 34. 8. Don’t take obvious notes – use a phone or tablet. Source: Flickr – Elvert Barnes Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 36
  35. 35. 9. Treat recording as secondary – take photos or video last. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 37
  36. 36. 9. Treat recording as secondary – use a phone or tablet. Source: Flickr – Jesus Leon Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 38
  37. 37. 9. Treat recording as secondary – don’t record audio. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 39
  38. 38. 10. Debrief after each observation session. Source: Flickr – Sean MacEntee Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 40
  39. 39. 10. Debrief after each observation session. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 41
  40. 40. 11. Do it ethically – observe in public places. Source: Flickr – Dominic Alves Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 42
  41. 41. 11. Do it ethically – focus on groups not individuals. Source: Flickr – Alfonso Pierantonio Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 43
  42. 42. 11. Do it ethically – protect privacy. Source: Flickr – David Goehring Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 44
  43. 43. 11. Do it ethically – don’t deceive. Source: Flickr – Elvert Barnes Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 45
  44. 44. 12. Combine it with other methods. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 46
  45. 45. Covert naturalistic observation
  46. 46.  Overt and covert methods each have advantages and disadvantages. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 48
  47. 47.  With understanding of the advantages and disadvantages, we can use overt and covert methods as appropriate to best understand the user experience. Covert Naturalistic Observation - Jim Ross 49
  48. 48. Covert naturalistic observation Jim Ross Design Philadelphia: The Bleeding Edge of Design Research October 16, 2013

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