Ethnographical studies at MS
Kelly Goto recently interviewed one of MS ethnographer. While the beginning of the interview is quite classical ("My goal is to understand people's lives and behaviors, then infuse this understanding throughout the development process to help build products that more directly meet people's needs and mold to their lives"), the end is very insightful (because it's less abstract mostly):
Ethnographic work helps show where unarticulated opportunities exist. We closely observe people and look where their current systems break down; in other words we see gaps that are waiting to be filled. If they're turned into a solution, that's where you see innovation. Innovation is not always cool, new and flashy. It's sometimes solving simple problems in new ways, like the 'big button' that Xerox Parc put on copier machines.
And especially this:
Q: What are some of the most memorable insights you've gathered from your research? Every study has unique and exciting insights. But perhaps the most surprising was working with truckers. It was part of a larger study exploring 'blind spots', or areas about which we had little information, and in particular it was part of a wireless hotspot and transit spaces study. We were floored by how much truck drivers are on the cutting edge of communication technologies and strategies to stay connected wherever they are. We heard over and over that 'when you live your life on the road, connecting with the people you love is essential to maintaining relationships.' Traditional stereotypes of truck drivers were blown away as we explored the detailed ecosystems these folks built to stay connected! These were not technology people - but they are driven to use technology in innovative and advanced ways to meet a critical need they have. Ethnography helps uncover these unexpected but invaluable uses of technology.
It reminds me this NPR podcast in which one of person interviewed was a truck driver who discussed the benefits and drawbacks of GPS positioning for his work.
I also like what she said about the fact that lab studies of mobile phone experience are quite useless because it removes the context. Plus, this is so true: "doing the research is only a quarter of the work": communicating results and working with others is another great part.
Why do I blog this? even though these are only glimpses of information, it's relevant to know some of MS usage of ethnographical studies.