Links on Ethnography

The Design Ethnography Fieldguide

An essential part of any design activity is understanding the context one is working in, particularly the social context. Eventually when proposals are made, these too must be measured by their likely impact on the people who will use and live with them.

Ethnography is one way to get closer to the everyday reality that design proposals will be situated within. Design ethnography is generally considered to be a light-weight version of established practices in the social sciences.

This booklet is used by participants of the Helsinki design labs studios when venturing into the field to see the reality of a system as it is lived and experienced on the ground. It is intended to be the minimal starting point for this kind of activity.

They supplement this document with group discussions to prepare participants and adjust the booklet as needed in different situations.

The Design Ethnography Fieldguide (PDF, 1.1 mb)

Twitter as a Cultural Artifact

McLuhan’s most useful device is the tetrad, a pedagogical tool designed to understand the transformative effects of a particular cultural artifact by looking at how it increased or decreased specific cultural patterns or brought back things that were lost in our society as a result of new technology.

To stave off further verbose explanation, here’s the Twitter Tetrad. This tetrad is designed to help us understand how Twitter actually has changed society.

1. What does Twitter enhance or amplify in our culture?

Twitter enhances our ability to cement the boundaries that we’ve begun to redraw on the internet. It does this by allowing us to live in communities of our own borders, different than nationality (which arose because of print technology), surrounded by like minds and interests. We come closer to “living” in this new community by understanding how those with shared interests and beliefs really live rather than just joining each other on websites and forums to discuss our similarities.

2. What does Twitter obsolesce?

Twitter obsolesces editorial content completely by painting a picture of what is actually happening right now. Twitter also removes traditional media as the authority and source of facts and up to date information.

3. What does Twitter retrieve from earlier civilization or society that was previously lost?

Twitter retrieves the ability to be an authority based on “power of voice” rather than traditional pedigree, something that was present in oral tradition. Twitter also retrieves our ability to memorize short passages to repeat orally as a transmission method for information and then knowledge.

4. What does Twitter reverse or flip into when pushed to extremes?

Twitter’s all-information, all-the-time, from everywhere on the globe, helps us stay connected everywhere but reverses into a collective hive mind of our buzzing thoughts. Disconnectedness and isolation is the product of the oversaturation of the channel: high fidelity but information dilution brought to you by sheer numbers of faceless thoughts passing through the medium.

Twitter as a Cultural Artifact

Download IDEO’s Human Centered Design Toolkit

Their Human Centered Design Toolkit is a free innovation guide for NGOs and social enterprises.

Human-Centered Design is a process used for decades to create new solutions for companies and organizations. Human-Centered Design can help you enhance the lives of people. This process has been specially-adapted for organizations like yours that work with people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Human-Centered Design (HCD) will help you hear people’s needs in new ways, create innovative solutions to meet these needs, and deliver solutions with financial sustainability in mind.

The Toolkit is divided into four sections that can be downloaded individually or together:

  1. The Introduction will give an overview of HCD and help you understand how it might be used alongside other methods.
  2. The Hear guide will help your design team prepare for fieldwork and understand how to collect stories that will serve as insight and inspiration. Designing meaningful and innovative solutions that serve your customers begins with gaining deep empathy for their needs, hopes and aspirations for the future. The Hear booklet will equip the team with methodologies and tips for engaging people in their own contexts to delve beneath the surface.
  3. The Field Guide and Aspirations cards are a complement to the Hear guide; these are the tools your team will take with them in order to conduct research.
  4. The Create guide will help your team work together in a workshop format to translate what you heard from people into frameworks, opportunities, solutions, and prototypes. During this phase, you will move from concrete to more abstract thinking in identifying themes and opportunities and back to the concrete with solutions and prototypes.
  5. The Deliver guide will help catapult the top ideas you have created toward implementation. The realization of solution includes rapid revenue and cost modeling, capability assessment, and implementation panning. The activities offered in this phase are meant to complement your organization’s existing implementation processes and may prompt adaptations to the way solutions are typically rolled out.

IDEO’s Human Centered Design Toolkit
Download individual sections

Equipment you should have while conducting Field Research

The following gear is Jan Chip Chase’s personal recommendation for someone wanting to put together a field research starter kit. It’s not comprehensive, it won’t all be right for you, but it’s the gear that has stood up to the rigors of the field and has delivered time after time.

His list covers:

  • Luggage
  • Camera Kit (Nikon)
  • Camera Kit (Canon)
  • Photo Management
  • Travel Printer
  • Audio

Research Equipment Overview

The Journal of Quantitative Anthropology

The Journal of Quantitative Anthropology is no longer published. This site provides open access to articles that prior to the development of this site could only be found in university libraries. There are many fine articles published in the 7 years of the journals’ existence and they are now available for all.

The Journal of Quantitative Anthropology