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Gathering Real-World Insights with Anthropology

The work of cultural anthropologists can help deepen your understanding of your customers, refine your business objectives, and even assess the success of your efforts! This presentation will introduce you to the ways that cultural anthropology and its focus on gathering data in natural settings can yield actionable insights to fuel your designs and strategies.

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Gathering Real-World Insights with Anthropology

  1. 1. Gathering Real-World Insights from the Field with Anthropology Matt Baline Sr. User Experience Strategist Idea @MattBaline http://www.mattbaline.net/anthro
  2. 2. An anthropological approach will provide you with unique, exciting, and actionable insights that are grounded in what people really do.
  3. 3. ✔ ✗ (Ervin 2005:1)
  4. 4. Unique Insights
  5. 5. Culture Holism Relativism Theory
  6. 6. Culture
  7. 7. Culture is “an integrated system of shared ideas (thoughts, ideals, attitudes), behaviors (actions), and material artifacts (objects), that characterize a group”. (Jordan 2003:40)
  8. 8. Holism
  9. 9. Holism is “pulling back from the specific problem, event, or situation under study and putting it in a larger context.” (Jordan 2003:108)
  10. 10. Motorola Social TV Interruptions
  11. 11. Motorola Social TV Interruptions Video: A young mother with a baby contrasts her loud alarm clock to her baby’s soft coos. A college student describes his frustration with his neighbors who always want to hang out.
  12. 12. Caution! Holism may have the following side effects: ✴ The tendency to suggest research every time ✴ Business stakeholder frustration ✴ Project manager heartburn
  13. 13. Cultural Relativism
  14. 14. Cultural relativism involves “trying to understand behavior from the participant’s point of view rather than your own personal one.” (Jordan 2003:2)
  15. 15. Literal Point of View Video: An engineer walks from a loud warehouse full of industrial equipment, across a dusty yard full of pipes, and into a trailer.
  16. 16. Figurative Point of View
  17. 17. Theory
  18. 18. Theory helps us to guide our focus on and make sense of what we see in the field.
  19. 19. “Institutional ethnography” draws attention to the reduction of people to “cases.” (Escobar 1995:110)
  20. 20. Taking a “vertical slice” of a situation leads us to study up and down. Television Viewing Producers Broadcasters Distributors Viewers (Nader 1972:292)
  21. 21. “Liminality” directs our attention to when people are between states. (Turner 1969:167)
  22. 22. Culture Holism Relativism Theory
  23. 23. Exciting Insights
  24. 24. Anthropological methods Abandoning preconceptions Making the invisible visible Being Flexible Being Ethical
  25. 25. Anthropological Methods
  26. 26. “Participant observation is the gathering of data about the daily life and customs of a people while participating, to the extent possible, in that life.” (Jordan 2003:21)
  27. 27. Participant Observation Video: A montage of engineers working with technology in cramped, loud, cold, hot, and dirty situations.
  28. 28. Observer Participants Video: Two video diary entries. 1. An engineer describes how he and a peer used their mobile phones during a late-night telephone cutover. 2. An engineer demonstrates how he uses his phone to document fiber connections in a networking closet.
  29. 29. Interviewing enriches your understanding of what you see. Video: An engineer explains the concept of a “pimp check.” He describes how when one engineer interrupts another engineer for help, the interrupting engineer gets “minus one” and the other gets “plus one.”
  30. 30. Analysis of events focuses your attention on action. Analysis of relationships focuses your attention on relationships.
  31. 31. Abandoning Preconceptions
  32. 32. Casting off your preconceptions means operating like you don’t know anything.
  33. 33. The Realities of Breakfast
  34. 34. Millions Wasted? Video: An engineer explains why he does not turn to Cisco.com first for technical support.
  35. 35. Making the Invisible Visible
  36. 36. Making the invisible visible means seeing what others miss and getting at the unspoken and unrecognized.
  37. 37. Mobile Phone as Directory Video: An engineer looks up a phone number on his mobile phone, but dials it on his desk phone.
  38. 38. Being Flexible
  39. 39. Anthropological methods can be used almost any time. ✴ Early design research ✴ Evaluation ✴ Re-design/Re-contextualization
  40. 40. Combine methods through triangulation to gather data faster. ✴ Observation + Interviewing ✴ Focus groups + Observation ✴ Qualitative + Quantitative ✴ Designers + Researchers + Specialists
  41. 41. Being Ethical
  42. 42. Don’t do harm to anyone if you can possibly help it. Don’t deceive people or misrepresent either yourself or what you’re doing. Try to be as impartial as possible.
  43. 43. Anthropological methods Abandoning preconceptions Making the invisible visible Being Flexible Being Ethical
  44. 44. Actionable Insights
  45. 45. Analysis Presentation
  46. 46. Analysis
  47. 47. Inductive Analysis Observation Observation Pattern 1 Pattern 2 Implications, Observation ↺ Analysis Pattern 3 Recommendations, and Ideas Observation Pattern ... Observation
  48. 48. Pawing Through and Marking Up ↺ Atlas.ti (Ryan and Bernard 2003)
  49. 49. Presentation
  50. 50. Make Your Findings Stick ✴ Involve your team in analysis ✴ Provide “scaffolding” around your exciting data ✴ Situate participants and action in context (Cramer et al. 2008:120)
  51. 51. Situate Participants and Action
  52. 52. Analysis Presentation
  53. 53. An anthropological approach will provide you with unique, exciting, and actionable insights that are grounded in what people really do.
  54. 54. This is an approach you can adopt now.
  55. 55. Works Cited Cramer, Meg, Mayank Sharma, Tony Salvador, and Russell Beauregard 2008 Video Utterances: Expressing and Sustaining Ethnographic Meaning through the Product Development Process. Proceedings of EPIC 2008:116-127. Ervin, Alexander M. 2005 Applied Anthropology: Tools and Perspectives for Contemporary Practice. New York: Pearson. Escobar, Arturo 1995 Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Jordan, Ann 2003 Business Anthropology. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc. Nafus, Dawn and ken anderson 2006 The Real Problem: Rhetorics of Knowing in Corporate Ethnographic Research. Proceedings of EPIC 2006:244-258. Turner,Victor 1969 The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers. Ryan, Gery W. and H. Russell Bernard 2003 Techniques to Identify Themes. Field Methods 15(1):85-109.
  56. 56. Photo Credits Slide 3 Jeters - thejcgerm http://www.flickr.com/photos/thejcgerm/3769815547/ Men - Pine Street Inn http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinestreetinn/4167378656 Woman - Miss_Colleen http://www.flickr.com/photos/colleenmorgan/2701052370 Slide 4-5; 19 Alyssa L. Miller http://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssafilmmaker/5358329756 Slide 7 V&A Friday Late http://www.flickr.com/photos/fridaylate/ Slide 18 redjar http://www.flickr.com/photos/redjar/113959474/ Slide 20-21; 35 Americo Aperta http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaperta/5715797525/ Slide 28 Tenuto http://www.flickr.com/photos/70417572@N08/6648404733 Slide 36-37; 42 Anders Illum http://www.flickr.com/photos/aai/6936657289/ Slide 55 Justin Henry http://www.flickr.com/photos/benton/247994083/
  • jeremy

    Oct. 15, 2012

The work of cultural anthropologists can help deepen your understanding of your customers, refine your business objectives, and even assess the success of your efforts! This presentation will introduce you to the ways that cultural anthropology and its focus on gathering data in natural settings can yield actionable insights to fuel your designs and strategies.

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