remote research

Ethnographic Research in Remote Spaces: Overcoming Practical Obstacles and Embracing Change

photo of yellow blinds
by CHLOE EVANS, Spotify As an ethnographer and user researcher in industry a lot of my work depends on speaking to people face to face, understanding how they live their lives on their own terms and in their own spaces. Since the onset of Covid-19 both academic and industry researchers alike have been recalibrating how they conduct research in non-physical spaces by relying on remote tools and technology. Conducting research in a non-physical space has unexpected benefits as well as some challenges. The Importance of "Being There" The time corporate ethnographers have in the field is incredibly valuable; compared to academic ethnographers, we are able to spend far less time with people. Being in the same space is vital for us to understand how people use products and services for the companies we work for. For example, in a past role, I would have not understood the intricacies of how people experience pet store spaces in the US if I had not physically traveled there, spoken with dog owners, and followed them around the stores. Likewise,...

Recalibrating UX Labs in the Covid-19 Era

by STUART HENSHALL, Convo Early in 2020 as a result of Covid-19, Convo—along with companies around the world—moved all research in India to remote solutions. This was quite a change and presented new challenges to the research team. While our preference is almost always to go in-home, particularly for foundational and ethnographic research, for UX research a temporary though centralized “lab” is typically more time and cost efficient. This post focuses on the impact of remote methods on UX Labs where, paradoxically, remote methods can render the lab situation more ethnographic. India, pre-Covid-19 We are in a tier two city, sitting in a viewing room, looking in on the UX lab setup as a session was about to start. It was typical for India in many regards, with multiple cameras, various wires, and recording equipment set up in a temporary location (typically a hotel). Usually you can’t help noticing the wallpaper (it’s so not me) and the lights may be dim and fluorescent. In a few moments, our research participant will arrive....

Where is Remote Research? Ethnographic Positioning in Shifting Spaces

by JENNIFER COLLIER JENNINGS & RITA DENNY, EPIC “There’s a lot of talk about us ‘being there’, and what that means for our practice and what that means for the type of work that we say we do. The ground has shifted. How do we respond to that? It’s not just, ‘Oh, we’re temporarily working remotely, let’s just gather some new tools.’ We’re actually responding to a shift in the ground underneath us. And we still want to be able to ask questions in depth and gather data in a way that makes meaning for us.” —Nichole Carelock Ethnographers are recalibrating the spaces we inhabit with people. We can’t physically go into homes, workplaces, stores, cars, hospitals; we’re adjusting interview protocols to online environments, exploring software for remote diary studies, and creating virtual workshops. But as we onboard new tools for ‘being there’ with people, let’s think about what it means to be there in the first place. For decades ethnographers have pushed businesses and organizations to pay attention...

Supporting Real-Time Contextual Inquiry through Sensor Data

KATERINA GORKOVENKO University of Edinburgh DAN BURNETT Lancaster University DAVE MURRAY-RUST University of Edinburgh JAMES THORP Lancaster University DANIEL RICHARDS Lancaster University A key challenge in carrying out product design research is obtaining rich contextual information about use in the wild. We present a method that algorithmically mediates between participants, researchers, and objects in order to enable real-time collaborative sensemaking. It facilitates contextual inquiry, revealing behaviours and motivations that frame product use in the wild. In particular, we are interested in developing a practice of use driven design, where products become research tools that generate design insights grounded in user experiences. The value of this method was explored through the deployment of a collection of Bluetooth speakers that capture and stream live data to remote but co-present researchers about their movement and operation. Researchers monitored a visualisation of the real-time data to build up a picture...