The Public Policy Lab; The School for Visual Arts
Public sector innovation (PSI) is an emerging multidisciplinary field that is attracting practitioners from a wide range of sectors and industries, with a correspondingly broad set of skills and experience. PSI aims to significantly improve the services that a government has the responsibility to provide by taking a user-centered, partnership-based approach, from service content development through to methods of service provision (OECD 2012). Yet the work is complex and not without risk, if undertaken without appropriate foresight, thoughtfulness, and rigor. In particular, when it comes to pursuing PSI in the design of social service policy and its provision, some of the more substantial risks lie hidden in systemic power imbalances that can easily be exacerbated, despite practitioners’ best intentions. This article uses a case study about homeless service provision in New York City (NYC) to offer a candid portrayal of undertaking research and design work in...
ELIOT SALANDY BROWN
In 2016, we set out to understand the future of driverless mobility—and specifically, how a mobility company can build products and services that will optimize the relationships between people and advanced assistive systems in an increasingly automated future. This case study will shed light on how an ethnographic approach inspired by actor-network theory allowed us to look closely at human-system interactions, build a unique perspective on the forms of agency people value most, and understand how mobility companies can harness this understanding to build automated systems that strengthen their relationships with consumers.
Drawing from the core tenets of actor-network theory, our research placed an emphasis not on individuals or even broader social ecologies—but rather, shifting networks of relationships between humans, objects, ideas, and processes. We divided our resources between two research tracks: i) human mobility, studying the complex network of relationships...
GREGORY A. BENNETT
This case study explores how a series of customer site visits to two international service centers drove design recommendations for a chatbot building platform that could encourage positive agent-chatbot collaboration. The first part of the case focuses on the research undertaken by a team of user experience practitioners at the enterprise software company Salesforce. The team used contextual inquiry and group interviews to better understand the daily experience of customer service agents and service teams in search of ways to responsibly implement automation tools like chatbots within a service center environment. The second part of the case study highlights how the UX team applied these learnings into specific product recommendations and developed a set of principles that could drive the product forward while remaining empathetic and supportive of customer service agents....
CHLOÉ HUIE BRICKERT
As part of an international research conducted for a French car manufacturer, a team of anthropologists and designers were asked to analyze the use of a car diagnostic tool by mechanics in their garages, in order to recommend ways of improving it. A single glance at the diagnostic tool’s interface was enough to get a feel for mechanics’ new reality: lines of codes and numbers, webpages filled with blue hyperlinks leading to readymade repair methods. Does being a mechanic in an automation era mean anything anymore? Based on findings from a study conducted in 5 countries with mixed ethnographic and UX methods, this case study explicits the interest of understanding mechanics as a profession – or even more, as an art – before studying the use of the tool itself, and mostly, it demonstrates how solutions can be contained in agency – and how design and tech teams can find inspiration from bypasses, local initiatives, and informal rituals. From supervising an international...
KEITH S. KARN
Human Factors in Context LLC
WILLIAM E. HUTSON
Now that they are beyond the initial start-up phase, it is time to take a critical look at ride-hailing systems such as Uber and Lyft. This ethnographic case study investigates these systems from the drivers’ perspectives and also addresses the ethnographic techniques and general approach that we used. Without a protocol, budget or equipment, we interviewed approximately 150 Uber, Lyft, and Taxi drivers in 23 US cities over 2 years during paid rides. Our loosely structured interview approach allowed us to collect information from drivers regarding the entire gamut of their jobs. This included how and why drivers work, their choice of work hours, rider pickups, driving, vehicle ownership and maintenance, rider behavior, perceptions of safety / danger, navigation, general likes and dislikes of the system, and financial matters related to their business. Our findings cover a wide range of issues, some bearing on poorly designed or missing functionality in the driver's...
The auto insurance industry is being disrupted by insurtechs that are leveraging data and technology to solve pain points in parts of the customer journey, while emerging technology in adjacent industries threatens insurance as it currently exists. As a result, insurance companies are imagining futures beyond traditional insurance and new ways that they might meet the needs of future customers. In order to explore what a reframing of insurance as “protection” could mean to customers, we utilized ethnographic methods and speculative design practices to reimagine how the transition from non-driver to young driver and from dependent child to independent adult could be more fully supported by an insurance company. In this case study, we review both the methodological processes and summarize learnings and opportunities critical to applying ethnofutures and speculative design practices within a large corporate setting, including: proposing a new approach to a diverse group of stakeholders;...
This case study examines how one Artificial Intelligence (AI) security software team made the decision to abandon a core feature of the product – an interactive Knowledge Graph visualization deemed by prospective buyers as “cool,” “impressive,” and “complex” – in favor of one that its users – security analysts – found easier to use and interpret. Guided by the results of ethnographic and user research, the QRadar Advisor with Watson team created a new knowledge graph (KG) visualization more aligned with how security analysts actually investigate potential security threats than evocative of AI and “the way that the internet works.” This new feature will be released in Q1 2020 by IBM and has been adopted as a component in IBM’s open-source design system. In addition, it is currently being reviewed by IBM as a patent application submission. The commitment of IBM and the team to replace a foundational AI component with one that better aligns to the mental models and practices of its...
The New School
Oregon State University
Oregon State University
Oregon State University
This case study examines agency within monitoring and evaluation (M&E) schemes for international development projects. Specifically, it evaluates a sensor to measure fuel consumption of clean cookstoves as a method of maintaining accountability and soliciting data on stove performance. Despite trends of increasingly automated M&E, the decisions of choosing, analyzing, and translating outcomes and indicators are influenced by stakeholder input. Through various rapid ethnographic methods including surveys and interviews with government agencies, non-profits, and clean stove users, in addition to participant observation and focal follow of stove users in Central America and Uganda, the interactions and inputs of various agents throughout the project lifetime are assessed. Further, it is discussed that while not all actors were equitably engaged throughout the entirety...
This paper draws on a discovery research project focused on the customer experience of Intrepid Travel's automated booking system. The Data Analytics team initially investigated customer behaviour when booking and found problems with high exit rates on the first and second steps of the 3-step booking process. A paradox was also found between the numeric NPS and CES scores for booking, and comments which revealed high volumes of customers requiring assistance from customer service to complete their online booking. The Product Manager for this project prioritised an extended discovery research phase to provide a more holistic understanding of the customer experience of online booking and answer some questions that arose from customer behaviours highlighted by the Data Analytics team. The UX Researcher's task was to design a research project that would analyse why customers were struggling to complete Intrepid Travel's automated booking process and provide recommendations to improve this system for a...
This case study demonstrates the radius of influence that ethnographic insight can have throughout an organization as well as how it can be tied to business outcomes. This case also represents the power of video ethnography as a robust and enduring data set that provides a visceral, contextual, human record capable of aligning and galvanizing cross functional teams. At the cusp of aggressive expansion, Primrose Schools needed to address cascading business issues: low brand awareness relative to key competitors in new markets, brand engagement (vis a vis online content), and disappointing conversion rates for Parent enrollment. The first half of the case describes the design and key findings from our Parent Enrollment Study. Early education in present day America is contextualized against a backdrop of new parenting philosophies, socio-cultural relationships with smartphones and social media, and wage stagnation. The second half of the case illuminates how broadly the ethnography-inspired...
ADAHEID L. MESTAD
During recovery and transition to the ‘new normal’, the loss of agency for patients and families of patients who go through a major health disruptor such as transplant, cancer, or cardio-vascular disease can be profound. Considering this, how can acute care hospitals help solve for caregivers’ loss of agency? And what does the physicality of such effort in the confines of a hospital building look like? The goal of this case study is to (1) demonstrate how ethnographic thinking and design research can help a medical center understand the needs, values, rituals, and agency of a patients and their families; (2) show socio-spatial solutions that can support the transition to the patient’s and family’s new normal.
The ethnographic study showed that the patients and families who go through a major health disruptor struggle with the loss of agency in various ways. While loss of agency can be obtuse, four themes emerged as contributing factors to the overall sense of loss: (1) loss...
GSuite is changing the nature of Knowledge Work across 5 million businesses through AI-powered assistance. To ensure that this evolution reflects the aspirations and priorities of workers, Google and Stripe Partners conducted a multi-national ethnography of Knowledge Workers covering a range of industries. We identified that workers distinguish between ‘Core’ and ‘Peripheral’ work: the work they are paid to do and identify with, and the work that does not contribute to their success or happiness. Workers want assistance to enhance Core work and remove Peripheral work, nuanced across a spectrum of support. This framework and taxonomy has been adopted by teams at Google to inform strategic decisions on how AI is integrated by GSuite. New features are being implemented within Gmail, Slides, Docs and Sheets that bring these principles to life in the user experience....
This case study seeks to increase understanding of how agency is fostered in human-AI interaction by providing insight from Uber’s development of a conversational voice-user-interface (VUI) for its driver application. Additionally, it provides user researchers with insight on how to identify agency’s importance early in the product development process and communicate it effectively to product stakeholders. First, the case reviews the literature to provide a firm theoretical basis of agency. It then describes the implementation of a novel in-car Wizard-Of-Oz study and its usefulness in identifying agency as a critical mediator of driver interaction with the VUI before software-development. Afterward, three factors which impacted driver agency and product usage are discussed – conversational agency, use of the VUI in social contexts and perception of the VUI persona. Finally, the case describes strategies used to convince the engineering and product teams to prioritize features to increase agency....
Case Study—This case study will present how a multicultural and multidisciplinary team from EPAM Continuum, the global innovation design firm, gathered, analyzed, and presented back different forms of “evidence” to satisfy the complex set of client and customer needs for a Jordanian microfinance bank with 30 branches and 65,000 clients. The team navigated cultural and linguistic barriers as they sought to provide stakeholders and their customers the evidence they needed to confidently design a new “mobile payment service” for their microloan customers. Over the course of the engagement, the firm's team strove not only to research, design, and prototype a new service to hand off to a local development team, but also to (1) use a combination of deliverables and in-field accompaniment to train microfinance bank staff in their process; (2) present evidence demonstrating the deep customer understanding that can result from pairing ethnographic research and human-centered design; and (3) create evidence...
MICHAEL C. LIN
Cast Study—In 2014, Kaiser Permanente began implementing a next-generation medical office model that reimagines the outpatient care experience, combining new architecture, workflow, and technology to create a more convenient experience for patients and a connected, efficient experience for staff and care teams. As the first next-gen facilities were being built, challenges emerged as teams across a variety of disciplines attempted to translate the model's vision into reality. Teams were making design and operational decisions in parallel, without the ability to see how their decisions impacted the overall user experience.
To resolve these challenges, our innovation team at Kaiser Permanente used a hybrid make-and-observe method of prototyping and ethnography. Employing a co-creation mindset (Bødker and Grønbaek 1991), we engaged staff and patients to help us bring the future state of these next-gen clinics to life in a minimally viable way....