product development

Contextualizing Customers

TRULS ERIK JOHNSEN and PER HELMERSEN This paper is based on fieldwork in Pakistan and Malawi and focuses on the importance of communicating contextualizing stories to HQ and business developer teams. By means of an explorative approach—even in highly structured commercial projects with formalized needs—we’ve uncovered findings and generated understandings that would be hard to pinpoint from a desktop-based pre-study or demand driven fieldwork. These findings in turn have proven to be important tools for said business developers in spite of the fact that they were not included in the initial fieldwork specification. Since our respondents are seen, heard and understood as far as possible within their own framework of values, priorities and aspirations, we, as researchers, are in a position to communicate a well-grounded and more refined picture of their daily lives rather than merely communicating the measurable hard facts back to corporate business developers....

Challenges and Opportunities for Ethnographic Market Research in Uncertain Times

JEAN ZELT While we believe in-depth, observational approaches are still the most powerful way of developing an understanding of users, we must adapt our approach to fit within current economic constraints. One way is to employ economical phases of research that support and strengthen data gathered from in-person, in-context engagements. Specifically, these are preliminary landscape and trends analysis, which provides focused paths of inquiry, and online engagement, which allows us to interact with people over a longer period of time and identify stronger participants for in-person research. The second is to demonstrate to clients how our approaches are broadly applicable and scalable—in terms of activities, participant numbers, and length of engagement—to meet today’s immediate goals. Instead of seeing merely compromise, we see opportunity. The adaptations brought on by our new reality are helping us to develop new ways to bring value to clients and challenging us to be creative in ways that will continue to be relevant even after...

Video Utterances: Expressing and Sustaining Ethnographic Meaning through the Product Development Process

MEG CRAMER, MAYANK SHARMA, TONY SALVADOR and RUSSELL BEAUREGARD In this paper we discuss the use of short, specific videos to communicate ethnographic data throughout the product development process. Ethnographic videos of this nature provide complex information in short “utterances” (zero to three minutes) that researchers use to effectively convey local meaning to other participants in the process. Video utterances can be used to create opportunities for participation in product ideation, recognize key features and identify problems during product testing. With proper scaffolding, the video utterances are an effective means of contextual representation proving to be quick, direct and influential with product development teams. Using video of this kind impacts the product as the local, ethnographic meaning is sustained throughout development....

Contact Lists and Youth

MATTHEW YAPCHAIAN This paper explores the nature of networked contact lists in an emerging new media ecology as they relate to a population of 10 American pre-teens and teens (9-15). Mobile, gaming, and Web 2.0 services are contributing to a shift in the role of the contact list from a static visualization of a database to an active communication tool and the site of sociality. We draw in material from ethnographic research illustrating contact lists as dynamic sites for social activity, existing across multiple media channels, which evolve in time with an individual user. We then describe how contact list use by American youth (9-15) produces new understandings of accessibility, sociality, and visibility within the scope of personal relationships, mobility, and play in everyday life. We conclude with how we are informing corporate strategy on youth marketing and new product development....

Taking the Driver’s Seat: Sustaining Critical Enquiry While Becoming a Legitimate Corporate Decision-Maker

ROGERIO DE PAULA, SUZANNE L. THOMAS and XUEMING LANG Staying relevant (to the business) is at the heart of career-advancement and (increasingly) job-security, particularly, in a business unit. It embodies a number of different meanings to the different players in corporate—from supporting product definition to creating strategic plans to making the appropriate business decisions. Rather surprisingly, though, we find EPIC talking about it with a certain discomfort, particularly when it comes to affect our identities as social researchers. On the other hand, we, in the industry, have little choice but to “play the game” and find ways whereby we can best utilize our knowledge, experiences, skills, our unique perspective to endow us an edge—creating interesting possibilities to stay relevant. This paper investigates our own trajectories in the past few years in a product group at Intel where we suddenly found ourselves increasingly more involved with decision-making, taking actions that would ultimately affect the course of the...

Thoughts on Representation

TONY SALVADOR I have a great job! I feel privileged to do it. In fact, my kids think my job is so great they think I go on vacation whenever I travel. Maybe it’s because I send home photos like this. I’d like to start with a rather personal story to which I will return at the end (and, since you’re going to wonder why I have told this story, it will provide a handy distraction if what I say in the middle of this talk is not to your interest…) Five years ago, I had an opportunity to walk a two week portion of the Camino de Santiago. It’s an ancient Catholic pilgrimage route starting in southwestern France and ending in Santiago de Compostela, on Spain’s western coast. As I walked, the simple rhythms of each day – rising in the morning, walking through the day, settling in the evening – immersed me deeper and deeper into the wholeness of the journey. It became less and less about making progress and more and more about being aware and present in that moment. Gradually, the journey took on a “lightness of being”;...

Who We Talk about When We Talk about Users

KRIS R. COHEN I begin with some questions: how have the theories and methods which subtend design research been changed by their migration from academy to industry? How have they adapted to their new commercial culture? What languages and customs have they had to acquire to fit in? To address these questions, I consider a facet of design research which I think most problematically bears the marks of this passage: how we choose who we will study. I go on to think about both the causes and implications of exclusions so often resident in this choice. The ideal that drives my analysis forward is that design researchers are in the business of designing not products for “users,” but landscapes of possibility for public life. A final suggestion, inspired by my recent work on Internet-based personal photography and here briefly sketched, is that design researchers take the publicness of our work more seriously—that we design for it....