Ethnographic Temporality: Using Time-Based Data in Product Renewal

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Corporate ethnography is often targeted at renewing the life of a product. Getting customers to start using a product again – or start using it in the first place – entails a deep understanding of the rhythm of everyday life. When do customers begin to use this product? When do they stop? What else is going on during this time? It is tempting to rely on the automatically collected time-data from “big data” analytics to answer this question. But ethnography offers a unique cultural lens to understanding the temporal aspects of the product lifecycle. In this paper, I provide examples of technological products that demonstrate how ethnographic insight offers deeper insight about the temporal aspects of products. I introduce the concept of the “timescape” and its three dimensions of time, and explain where some products are temporally successful and others temporally fail. I explain in the final portion of this paper, I outline ways in which digital time-data should complement traditional ethnography.

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