Acknowledging Differences for Design: Tracing Values and Beliefs in Photo Use

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This paper explores links between ethnographic approaches, technology design and use and values and beliefs. We document recent empirical work on the use of photographs amongst Chinese families; pointing to some differences with previous empirical studies from predominantly Western cultures and tentatively linking Chinese photo work to rather broader cultural values that may develop some ‘sensitivities’ for design. For some time ethnography has been interested in ‘values’ in methodological approaches and concerns. The notion of ‘values’ is also repeatedly called upon in ethnographic studies of (technology for) the home. In this appeal these studies tellingly echo Peter Winch’s sentiments regarding how, in general, social life can be understood only through a understanding of beliefs. This paper documents and explicates photo work amongst Chinese families, linking the families’ own explanations and comments about these practices to much wider, if particular, sets of social and cultural values and reflects on the potential influence of these values on technology design.

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