Intelligences

Who We Talk about When We Talk about Users

KRIS R. COHEN I begin with some questions: how have the theories and methods which subtend design research been changed by their migration from academy to industry? How have they adapted to their new commercial culture? What languages and customs have they had to acquire to fit in? To address these questions, I consider a facet of design research which I think most problematically bears the marks of this passage: how we choose who we will study. I go on to think about both the causes and implications of exclusions so often resident in this choice. The ideal that drives my analysis forward is that design researchers are in the business of designing not products for “users,” but landscapes of possibility for public life. A final suggestion, inspired by my recent work on Internet-based personal photography and here briefly sketched, is that design researchers take the publicness of our work more seriously—that we design for it....

Let’s Have A Conversation

RICK E. ROBINSON As an introductory set of remarks for the theory session, this short paper sets up some issues facing both the field of ethnography applied in industry and those who undertake theoretical work in the field. The author proposes some simple dimensions for discussion: how we might consider work in industry a definite and distinct location for theory work; the nature of relationships with key interlocutors that are fundamental to working in industry; and finally, the role, opportunity, and responsibility that theory work might have going forward....