By JILL KUSHNER BISHOP, Multilingual Connections
Machine translation can undermine nuanced research data and analysis—here's a close look at human/machine difference.
Connecting with other people is at the heart of ethnographic research – understanding their perspectives, preferences, and behaviors helps organizations create and align offerings with consumers. Research relies on clear communication to optimize participant experience and develop meaningful insights from research results. Yet not all communication is created equal – especially when working in multiple languages. Translation by machine or an inexperienced translator often lacks cultural nuance and can miss the mark, resulting in a poor participant experience, study attrition, less than optimal interpretation, and ultimately insufficient research outcomes.
To illustrate the differences in output between human and machine translation, we set up several experiments – first pitting human vs. machine and then pitting two experienced translators against each other....
by JILL KUSHNER BISHOP, Multilingual Connections
Languages are alive—vibrant and eloquent expressions of who we are. During my doctoral fieldwork I looked at how people used language to enact and express their identity, how connections and community were created through speech and how forms of talk, particular phrases or words, could transport people across time and space. Words matter. So when contemplating translation, how can you ensure a focus on each word while not losing sight of the broader cultural considerations?
When research brings you to multilingual communities—whether globally or in your own backyard—it’s essential to consider the linguistic and cultural practices of your target audience. Assuming you’re doing work in their language of choice, you’ll likely have content that needs to be translated or audio that needs to be transcribed to analyze the data you’ve collected.
In either case, nuance matters. Choices of words, phrases or metaphors—yours or theirs—signify by conveying meaning about ideas,...
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...
Hitachi, Ltd. Research & Development Group
Independent UX Research & Design Consultant
In international business ethnography, clients and subjects don’t share the same background. Without an understanding of the underlying factors affecting the subject’s behaviors, data can lead to false home-market based assumptions about cause and effect. Where do we as researchers look to detect meaningful findings in international contexts? Drawing on our decades of international fieldwork, we describe how focusing on culture or cultural differences to interpret differences in workflows and attitudes can sometimes hamper accurate interpretation of observations. We describe through case studies how instead, identifying foundation factors shaping behaviors and mindsets such as market forces, government policy, labour markets, and financial schemas can be the key to insight in international contexts.
Keywords: Ethnography, International, Japan, fieldwork, workflow, products and systems, user research, UX,...
‘AirSpace’, according to Kyle Chayka, is the increasingly homogenized experience of the western(ized) business traveller, driven by major tech platforms (including Google, Airbnb and Uber.) As international travellers, ethnographers must account for the impact of AirSpace on their research practice. After delineating the concept of AirSpace the paper posits three dangers ethnographers must negotiate: (1) The cost of control: AirSpace offers researchers control, but can narrow the scope of research (2) The risk of superficiality: AirSpace provides shortcuts to cultural understanding, but can limit deeper comprehension (3) The assumption of equivalence: AirSpace provides shared reference points, but can create the illusion of equivelance with research subjects. By exploring these three dangers the paper invites readers to reflect on their own research practice and consider how to utilize the benefits of these platforms while mitigating the issues outlined....
by YUEBAI LIU & JUNNI OGBORNE
There’s a kind of building found across China that combines a Western-style “body” with a rather incongruous Chinese-style glazed tile roof plonked on top. This style of architecture had its heyday in the frenzy of the Great Leap Forward, when Chairman Mao ordered architects and engineers to design and construct ten gigantic buildings in Beijing in the space of just ten months.
In indigenous Chinese architectural designs, tiled rooves are structurally integrated into the rest of the building through posts and beams. In these 1950s designs, the “Chinese hat” (dawuding, lit. “big roof”) is reduced to a decorative afterthought to give some vague Chinese character to the imported design. Architect Liang Sicheng criticized the mismatched structures as “wearing a Western suit with a Chinese hat.”
Multinationals’ efforts to conquer the Chinese market often remind us of this “Chinese hat” analogy. Many times over the years living and working in China, we have seen marketers,...
by STUART HENSHALL, Convo Research & Strategy Private Limited
International research is exciting but often daunting. Ethnographers are trained to understand cultural difference and nuance, but without the right cultural guides, excellent translation and local research support, we can easily mis-interpret what we observe and hear. An interpreter can be key to understanding deeper impressions and meaning.
Frequently interpreters are loosely referred to as “translators”, but their role goes far beyond converting words from one language to another. These days it’s tempting to just reach for Google Translate (and research sponsors may wonder why they need to fund anything else), but your translator may be your nuanced “ear to the ground” and end up providing some of the best stories.
Interpretation/translation challenges frequently emerge in “concept and positioning” exercises as well as research more focused on UX/usability experiences. We offer some examples of why finding the right interpreters is critical...
by DAN PODJED, University of Ljubljana
Sustainability & Ethnography in Business Series, Mike Youngblood, Editor
When we think of technology and innovation responses to global warming, we tend to imagine grand solutions that address the problem on a massive scale. For many ethnographers, designers in industry and other solution seekers, this makes the challenge of sustainability daunting, something we can't imagine pursuing in our day-to-day practice.
However, we can make a significant impact with relatively simple solutions, especially if they are tailored to local lifestyles and take into account habits, routines, practices, requirements and expectations of the people. This was the approach of the DriveGreen project, which was launched in 2014.
The initial plan for DriveGreen was to prepare a simple and affordable smartphone app for drivers of passenger cars. It was supposed to operate much like Toyota’s iPhone app A Glass of Water, which determines and visually communicates how economical, safe, and environmentally...
by ALESSANDRA MILLAR, JEANNIE FOULSHAM & LAURA GARCIA-BARRIO, Google
70% of Google traffic today comes from outside of the US, and that number will only get bigger. The next billion users to come online are going to be from markets other than North America and Europe. Our role as researchers is to help product teams understand user needs in different markets, and more importantly, how to design great products to meet these needs and behaviors.
We've learned a lot from the research we've done so far and thought we'd share some of the strategies that worked well for us in finding useful insights for our teams. We’re looking forward to hearing more about other researchers’ methods at EPIC2015 in São Paulo.
1. Create a buzz
Our research tries to bring people together from across the company to solve problems—but people have to know about our research plans in order to join in. To spread the word, we work with product teams to identify areas of exploration and we put together research proposals. Packed with data from previous...