"What exacerbates the pain of the job search is how simplistically we define community.... What if we always felt supported by and useful to others, whether in a job or not?"
Ethnographers are pathmakers by nature...but navigating the job market and other work transitions can be grueling and isolating. How can design and ethnographic methods, community building, and personal practices help sustain us? EPIC member, design researcher, and career coach Sarah Malin has some strategies to share with you: she's co-facilitating our next Career Pathmaking Meetup on April 4: Job Search Resilience: A Career Support Event for Ethnographers, Researchers, and Strategists. In anticipation, we chatted with Sarah about how to make the job search less soul-sucking, how ethnography informs her work, and the power of a good question.
For many, searching for a job can be isolating, draining, and demoralizing. What is the role of community in the job search process? How can we make it more human—and community—centered?
I think what exacerbates the pain...
"An ethnographic lens influences us to define ability and disability in a way that is maximally inclusive...many different abilities are present in our world, and each deserves to be taken as its own reality and respected as such."
—RICHARD BECKWITH (Research Psychologist, Intelligent Systems Research Lab) & SUSAN FAULKNER, (Research Director, Research and Experience Definition), Intel Corporation
EPIC Members Richard Beckwith and Susan Faulkner (Intel) have assembled a panel of luminaries in accessible tech research, design, and engineering for our January 26 event, Seeing Ability: Research and Development for Making Tech More Accessible. In anticipation, we asked them a few questions about their approach to accessibility and key first steps all of us can take to do more inclusive work.
How do you define ability and accessibility? How does an ethnographic lens influence your definitions?
Ability has to do with what an individual is capable of perceiving or physically doing with their body; accessibility has to do with...
Harvard Business School
PechaKucha Presentation—Customer ethnography and user research continues to move higher up the priority list of Fortune 500 corporations. As a design researcher at a global consultancy, my clients often consist of new or aspiring consumer research groups eager to scale quickly. Excited at first, these groups or individuals are ready to dive in but get discouraged by the size and price tag of “big leap user research projects” then end up never pursuing ethnography at all. Watching this pattern unfold client after client, it started to remind of making sourdough. Because novice bakers start out trying to make sourdough from scratch, expecting heaps of picturesque loaf of bread right off the bat. But that's not how sourdough is made. The first step is finding a “starter”. Sourdough starters are small pieces of fermented dough that one can really only get from an experienced baker. You need to integrate it into your ingredients and to make the sourdough rise, scale, and bubble....
by ELEANOR BARTOSH and CHRIS HAMMOND, IBM
IBM is big. We have around 350,000 employees including 20,000 design and user experience professionals, and only a fraction of them are experienced design researchers. Many of you reading this also work in or with large enterprise organizations and, as you know, at that scale it can be easy to get lost. At times, you might feel your research is undervalued and that you, as a researcher, are marginalized. We've been there, too, so we've identified some strategies that help to both address these issues and grow understanding at scale.
Crucially, we believe that the whole cross-functional team, not just the researcher, bares equal responsibility for advancing an understanding of the people the organization serves—more colloquially users, customers, constituents, and communities.
At this point, you may be thinking, "But wait...I'm not sure I trust my peers to not ask leading questions. I'm not sure they'll pick the right methods, identify the right participants, or analyze the data without...
IDEO Chicago and DePaul University
Case Study—This case study provides an inside look at what occurs when methods from the data science and ethnographic fields are mixed to solve perennial customer service problems within the call center and cruise industries. The paper details this particular blend of ethnographic practitioners with a data scientist resulted in changes to design approaches, debunking myths about qualitative and quantitative research methods being at odds and altering team member perspectives about the value of both. The project also led to the creation of innovative blended design research and data science methods to discover and leverage the right customer data to the benefit of both the customer and the call center agents who serve them. This paper offers insight into the untold value design teams can unlock when data scientists and ethnographers work together to solve a problem. The result was a design solution that gives a top-performing company an edge to grow even better by leveraging the millions...
This essay offers an analysis of the “pain point,” a commonplace figure of speech in UX design and contemporary business contexts more broadly. By situating this everday trope within a wider discourse of pain, and its politiciztion in the United States, I seek to problematize the modes of relationality and forms of care entailed in the practice of design research. Ultimately, I will argue, while the “pain point” can be an effective tool for communicating with stakeholders and fomenting alignment about research objectives, it also implicates the more troubling ethical dimensions of applied practice. Through a narrative account of an innovation focused ethnographic research project conducted within the design unit of a major tech company, I argue that questions of solidarity, and its contemporary aporias, can be obscured by the humanitarian rhetoric of contemporary design praxis; a rhetoric of which the “pain point” is a prime example....
I've been reflecting on my role in the use and abuse of evidence — in the past as a radio producer and more recently as a writer in a design research company. Storytelling is held aloft as something businesses need to do more of — and be better at — but often the narratives do not belong to businesses. We are re-tellers. The work of a writer presenting design research isolates evidence from its source. There are limits to what we can do to make sure evidence is considered alongside the intention it was gathered with. I started working on this because I wanted to share my indignation at evidence I gathered being misrepresented. My editors have turned stories of triumph into stories of disaster to get more clicks. But I've noticed the similarity between my questioning of editors, and the anthropologists I work with questioning me.
Evidence exists in relation to questions. Defining the things we're curious about helps us focus, and decide which evidence to seek out. Ethnographers...
We live our lives in contexts of overlapping systems. Developing the skill to connect dots of evidence between social, ecological and economic evidence offers the potential for more effective interventions in complex challenges.
Sarah Brooks, Sarah Brooks’ teaching and design practice sits at the intersection of design research, service design, and social innovation. She currently serves as a Design Executive and Distinguished Designer at IBM.
2018 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, p. 696, ISSN 1559-8918...
Nissan Research Center, Silicon Valley
A challenge for design research today lies in naming, knowing and accounting for people who are not direct users of our technologies, but who are nonetheless affected and compelled to interact with them in daily life. This Pecha Kucha takes us to the streets of Bogotá, Colombia, where a new bus system that was roundly rejected becomes a cautionary tale on the perils of ignoring the painpoints of ‘non-direct users.’ Drawing from pragmatist political science, I propose we can usefully understand this latter group as a ‘technological public,’ and I touch on key difficulties of designing for publics.
Lee Cesafsky is an urban geographer, transportation nerd, and Human-Centered Systems Design Researcher at Nissan Research Center in Silicon Valley. firstname.lastname@example.org
2018 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, p. 698, ISSN 1559-8918...
EPIC2017 Platinum Panel
Moderated by: CHRIS HAMMOND (IBM)
Panelists: MARK BURRELL (IBM), MELISSA CEFKIN (Nissan Research Center), CHRISTIAN MADSBJERG (ReD Associates) & DAWN NAFUS (Intel)
Increasingly, experiences are being created that incorporate augmented intelligence, promising to make us smarter, more efficient, and more effective. Doctors can recommend more comprehensive personalized treatment plans, teachers can provide lesson plans tailored to individual students, and farmers can vary crop irrigation and fertilization cycles in response to predicted weather patterns. Human capabilities (some might say intelligence) are being augmented, aided by machine learning algorithms that interpret and find meaning in vast quantities of both structured and unstructured data.
This panel addresses challenges of doing design research in a cognitive world where predictive analytics, conversational interfaces, and augmented intelligence are core aspects of the technology solutions being designed. What skills...
By ALANNAH BERSON
How do you make 1000 designers better at research while ensuring quality and rigor at the same time?
This is the kind of challenge Martha Cotton gets tackle at work everyday as Group Design Director for Research at Fjord—and as a member of the EPIC Board.
“If we are going to deeply understand the people we are designing for, I’m passionate about helping my design colleagues get that understanding in the best and most efficient way. It is definitely a very fun part of my job, thinking about elevating how we do design research, and creating the tools and resources to support roughly 1000 designers around the world in their efforts to be better researchers.”
One of the reasons Martha is so passionate about mentoring and teaching future researchers is that for her, becoming an ethnographer was a bit of an accident. “I was incredibly lucky early on to have the support of mentors who patiently nurtured what has turned out to be my life’s work.” This “accidental career” that Martha found has lead...
University of Calgary
This paper questions the role and form of ethnography in the studio setting through a comparative analysis of interviews with service and brand designers, and the promotional rhetoric of the studio organizations in which they work. It proposes that the way in which designers practice ‘ethnography’ consists of an adapted and hybrid methodological approach based not on theoretically informed data collection, analysis and interpretation, but instead of an assemblage of embodied research approaches. The ways in which designers substitute proxy audience membership, performance and praxiography for traditional ethnographic methods in their creative work and their acts of negotiation between the structural expectations of the studio organization and their own practice of cultural production are considered.
Keywords: Design Ethnography, Design Research, Methodology, Practice...
Case Study—This case study discusses the role ethnography played in fostering collaboration across two organizations during a research project. It explores how the opportunity for collaboration emerged, why it was seized upon, and what it meant for the project. The case study looks at the project challenges and mishaps and clarifies why in spite of this it is believed to be successful. It analyses the impact on people's perceptions of the project outcome and what this meant for our client.
Keywords: organizational culture, agency collaboration, design research, government...