Some In-context techniques. “Anthropology never has had a distinct subject matter, and because it doesn't have a real method, there's a great deal of anxiety over what it is.” -- Clifford Geertz . E thnography is about storytelling as much as interpreting. .
“Anthropology never has had a distinct subject matter, and because it doesn't have a real method, there's a great deal of anxiety over what it is.”
“I learned much more about acting from philosophy courses, psychology courses, history and anthropology than I ever learned in acting class.”
In the academic world, this work is generally the focus of cultural anthropologists. In the business world, “fieldwork” is conducted by all kinds of individuals who share a driving interest in people and their motivations.
It is not for just anyone, however: a willingness to observe users’ environments with an eye for even seemingly random detail, and a passion for understanding why people behave and interact as they do, is required.
Sociologists, product designers and IA’s, psychologists—even actors!– often make for good ethnographers.
“Anthropology demands the open-mindedness with which one
must look and listen, record in astonishment and wonder
that which one would not have been able to guess.”
Conducted where targeted audience typically performs the activities of interest or interacts with the relevant products or services.
Protocol [inclusive list of questions to be asked, time estimates, goals, tools required] often also includes interactive exercises.
Time spent in participants’ own contexts of use.
Relies on environment instead of memory.
Uncover richness of detail and key nuances.
Sessions are time-consuming for the interviewer and can be challenging to recruit.
A catch-22; the more depth of data collected, the more time required to analyze it.
Often done in-stores or on the street. Participant asked to respond to short list of questions (5-15 minutes), and is immediately compensated, either with small merchandise incentive or cash.
Intercepts can be done either pre- or post- an observation.
Spurs questioning about experiences, in the context in which they occur.
Spontaneous feedback, right while users are mid-interaction.
Lots of quick exchanges in a brief time.
Hard to “screen” for demographic or behavioral balance.
Requires a certain amount of sang-froid by the researcher.
(Individual and Community-based)
Can be done as a portion of an individual’s in-context event, or conducted more broadly as an overview of a shared space.
Protocol is tailored to include cues to watch for, for the observers.
Ideal for the tracking of such things as traffic patterns, timing of tasks, non-verbal behaviors.
Distance from interviewer allows self-consciousness to subside.
Lack of interaction allows for potential misunderstanding of what is observed.
To ensure against outliers, multiple passes at the same location or behavior are required.
Studying a participant’s arrangement and use of on-line tools to accomplish tasks; can include interrogations of bookmarks, apps, software selections, on user’s own devices.
The web adventure can also be used to frame a user assessment of competitors’ sites.
Positions participant as expert.
Can stimulate conversations around unexpected other practices and behaviors developed as work-arounds.
Can be so random as to lose relevance.
Can enter grey area not distinct enough from rigorous usability test.
Studying toothbrush and toothpaste purchasing reveals the importance of gesture
Team:2 researchers, 1 project manager, 1 designer
Objective: Understand the toothbrush and toothpaste shopping experiences, in order to discover how to carry over (strong) toothpaste attributes to the (weaker) toothbrush category.
Techniques: Shadowing and guerrilla interviews (4 days, 3 stores)
“I need two whole different toothbrushes! A regular one, and then one meant for babies, to get back here-- what do you call that?--behind my bridgework. ”
Trying to understand “performance” vehicles leads to… understanding trash management
Team: 6 researchers, 1 project manager
Markets: Las Vegas, Chicago, Los Angeles, Raleigh
Objective: Understand how drivers of varying vehicle platforms feel about “performance”.
Techniques: Shadowing drive-alongs, video diaries, in-home ethnos and visual stories (48 participants)
“You’d think they’d come up with something better than what I had to invent myself! ”
“You guys are like anthropologists!”
--current client, last Thursday night