personal data

The Future of User Research: To Thine Users Be True (even when they don’t need you)

by APALA LAHIRI CHAVAN, Human Factors International Sibongile sighed and put her pen and journal down. Today was May 20, 2050. Was she just a nostalgic second cycler—facing another lifetime in the age of 150-year-olds? It was her 70th birthday and her brood of children, grandchildren, partner and ex-partners were all going to be hologramed in from across the world. Her partner worked on Google’s Project Infinity, a project so very confidential that she hadn’t heard from him in a year. Would he make contact today? She had made sure when upgrading her hologram delivery service that it took into account the possibility that Dingane could be orbiting in space while holograming! She looked wistfully at her pen and paper journal. Completely obsolete now. She had, thanks to her foresight way back in 2016, hoarded a bunch of special pens and paper. But she had to be very, very careful about not showing them to anyone, not even her family. If anyone saw her using these, she would be termed an ‘archaic’ by the USO (USER segmentation...

Ethnography and IoT: Help Shape Relationships between Humans and Machines in 2016

by SUZANNE CURRIE (GE Digital) & CHRIS MASSOT (Claro Partners), EPIC2015 Salon Hosts IoT (the Internet of Things) took center stage at CES last January. Many watchers of the giant Consumer Electronics Show opined the array of new products entering this space (many aimed at mainstream consumers) was the main story from Las Vegas this year. Rewind a few months earlier to EPIC2015 in São Paulo, Brazil, and twenty-five ethnographers are sitting together in a room to consider how IoT fits with human behavior (and how our discipline can forge a better fit). This was EPIC’s Ethnography & IoT Salon, where attendees explored the question: With sensors being placed seemingly everywhere (including our bodies) allowing ‘things’ to ‘talk’ to each other, what sustained benefits do these measures provide? One Salon participant noted that so far, “Billions of dollars are being spent on IoT efforts that don’t make sense.” We think the issues uncovered in São Paulo are core to the growth of the IoT industry sub-field...

Data, Data, Everywhere, but Who Gets to Interpret It?

by DAWN NAFUS, Intel There has been a good deal of discussion of the relationship between the EPIC community and new practices of big data. Will the data scientists have the final word on what people value? Are we ethnographers effectively getting disrupted by cheaper and worse data? In a wider sense, what kind of a culture would we live in when stories of lived experience get increasingly sidestepped in favor of a newly re-empowered aggregate? Story would surely still matter, but the population of people in any position to tell stories with data would narrow drastically. This is not an inevitability, of course, and members of the EPIC community have written about reclaiming quantification in various ways (above, also contributions from Neal Patel and yours truly here). It turns out we are not the only ones asking these larger questions. The Quantified Self community is too, albeit for different reasons. I began my research in quantified self, admittedly, because the name alone suggested some of my worst fears about what technology...

How Theory Matters: Benjamin, Foucault, and Quantified Self—Oh My!

by JAMIE SHERMAN, Intel Corporation For many anthropologists and ethnographers—and particularly those of us based in the US, where the self and its adherent freedoms and choices have long been a core cultural construct—the self is frequently at the center of our studies. Indeed we are often in a privileged position from which to critique and dismantle notions of self that are too easy, too pat, too unified. But increasing penetration of data into the domain of the “personal” and to the management and care of the self suggest that something is afoot in how the self is understood, experienced, and practiced more broadly. As an anthropologist working for a technology company, understanding this shift becomes important as we design for a world in which data plays new roles and gains different valences than it once had. While the future remains an open question, social science theory helps ground present uncertainties in historical trajectories and suggests key directions for research and design that intersect these changes. Just...

Five Misconceptions about Personal Data: Why We Need a People-Centred Approach to “Big” Data

ABBY MARGOLIS We produce vast amounts of data in our daily lives. Email, text, search, check-in, photos, payments – all these activities create a trail of digital exhaust. This personal data has been triumphantly declared a “new asset class” by the WEF, compared to oil as the world’s newest economic resource, and sparked a big data race to gather it. This paper argues that this gold rush can obscure the real value of personal data by forgetting a fundamental rule of innovation: start with the person. The paper draws on global ethnographic research with data-driven individuals, experts, and start-ups to address five common misconceptions about personal data. It concludes with a set of simple principles and business case examples to bring a human-centred, small data perspective to life....