A Sum Greater than the Parts: Combining Contextual Inquiry with Other Methods to Maximize Research Insights into Social Transitions

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ERIN LEEDY and THEO DOWNES-LE GUIN

Introduction: Why Combining Contextual Inquiry with Other Methods Maximizes Insights into Social Transitions

Transitioning from “single” to “married” is a rite of passage for male adults worldwide. This transition often takes the recognized form of a marital engagement. The most prominent symbol of such an engagement in the U.S. is a diamond engagement ring, proffered to the woman as a symbol of the future union. Decisions related to selecting, purchasing, and presenting an engagement ring are momentous and personal—often completely foreign to the man prior to deciding to embark on the engagement journey. The path to engagement and marriage is clearly a personal transition, but is also linked to larger community and societal expectations as well as historical norms and traditions.

Companies involved in ring selection and sales, particularly those involved in on-line ring commerce, would benefit greatly from gaining insight into this transition experienced by potential customers. Specifically, what happens when Internet technology is inserted into the process? Can a place be created on the Internet that supports this transition? Using such insights, a company may provide support in the ring selection and purchase process that not only results in a sale but also helps to...

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