Beyond Usability: Emotion as the New User Experience with Kelly Goto, principal of gotomedia, LLC San Francisco, CA
Today’s connected experiences are no longer limited to a single laptop or mobile device. High expectations and dwindling patience have pushed customer demands to a new level.
In this fourteen minute interview with Kelly Goto, author, blogger and principal at GotoMedia based in San Francisco, CA, Kelly shares insights about “design ethnography” and tips to rethink your design and research approach and gain insight into the needs and desires of your customer in a truly contextual manner.
We also talk about the importance of understanding “Markup and Scripting” for Web designers and how members of her team are most effective as “left brain and right brain” Web professionals.
According to Wikipedia, Ethnography (from Greek ethnos = folk/people and grapho = to write) is “the science of contextualization” often used in the field of social sciences—particularly in anthropology, in some branches of sociology, and in historical science—that studies people, ethnic groups and other ethnic formations, their ethnogenesis, composition, resettlement, social welfare characteristics, as well as their material and spiritual culture. It is often employed for gathering empirical data on human societies and cultures. Data collection is often done through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, etc. Ethnography aims to describe the nature of those who are studied (i.e. to describe a people, an ethnos) through writing. In the biological sciences, this type of study might be called a “field study” or a “case report,” both of which are used as common synonyms for “ethnography”.
Data collection methods
One of the most common methods for collecting data in an ethnographic study is direct, first-hand observation of daily participation. This can include participant observation. Another common method is interviewing, which may include conversation with different levels of form and can involve small talk to long interviews. A particular approach to transcribing interview data might be genealogical method. This is a set of procedures by which ethnographers discover and record connections of kinship, descent and marriage using diagrams and symbols. Questionnaires can be used to aid the discovery of local beliefs and perceptions and in the case of longitudinal research, where there is continuous long-term study of an area or site, they can act as valid instrument for measuring changes in the individuals or groups studied. Traditionally, the ethnographer focuses attention on a community, selecting knowledgeable informants who know well the activities of the community. These informants are typically asked to identify other informants who represent the community, often using chain sampling. This process is often effective in revealing common cultural common denominators connected to the topic being studied. Ethnography relies greatly on up-close, personal experience. Participation, rather than just observation, is one of the keys to this process. Ethnography is very useful in social research.
Differences across disciplines
The ethnographic method is used across a range of different disciplines, primarily by anthropologists but also frequently by sociologists. Cultural studies, economics, social work, education, ethnomusicology, folklore, geography, history, linguistics, communication studies, performance studies, advertising, psychology, usability and criminology are other fields which have made use of ethnography.
Cultural and social anthropology
Cultural anthropology and social anthropology were developed around ethnographic research and their canonical texts which are mostly ethnographies: e.g. Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) by Bronis?aw Malinowski, Ethnologische Excursion in Johore by famous Russian ethnographer and naturalist ( “The moon man”) (1875) Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) by Margaret Mead, The Nuer (1940) by E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Naven (1936, 1958) by Gregory Bateson or “The Lele of the Kasai” (1963) by Mary Douglas. Cultural and social anthropologists today place such a high value on actually doing ethnographic research that ethnology—the comparative synthesis of ethnographic information—is rarely the foundation for a career. The typical ethnography is a document written about a particular people, almost always based at least in part on emic views of where the culture begins and ends. Using language or community boundaries to bound the ethnography is common. Ethnographies are also sometimes called “case studies.” Ethnographers study and interpret culture, its universalities and its variations through ethnographic study based on fieldwork. An ethnography is a specific kind of written observational science which provides an account of a particular culture, society, or community. The fieldwork usually involves spending a year or more in another society, living with the local people and learning about their ways of life. Ethnographers are participant observers. They take part in events they study because it helps with understanding local behavior and thought. Classic examples are Carol Stack’s All Our Kin, Jean Briggs’ “Never in Anger”, Richard Lee’s “Kalahari Hunter-Gatherers,” Victor Turner’s “Forest of Symbols,” David Maybry-Lewis’ “Akew-Shavante Society,” E.E. Evans-Pritchard’s “The Nuer” and Claude Lévi-Strauss’ “Tristes Tropiques”. Iterations of ethnographic representations in the classic, modernist camp include Bartholomew Dean’s recent (2009) contribution, Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia.
Bronis?aw Malinowski among Trobriand tribe
A typical ethnography attempts to be holistic and typically follows an outline to include a brief history of the culture in question, an analysis of the physical geography or terrain inhabited by the people under study, including climate, and often including what biological anthropologists call habitat. Folk notions of botany and zoology are presented as ethnobotany and ethnozoology alongside references from the formal sciences. Material culture, technology and means of subsistence are usually treated next, as they are typically bound up in physical geography and include descriptions of infrastructure. Kinship and social structure (including age grading, peer groups, gender, voluntary associations, clans, moieties, and so forth, if they exist) are typically included. Languages spoken, dialects and the history of language change are another group of standard topics.Practices of childrearing, acculturation and emic views on personality and values usually follow after sections on social structure. Rites, rituals, and other evidence of religion have long been an interest and are sometimes central to ethnographies, especially when conducted in public where visiting anthropologists can see them.
As ethnography developed, anthropologists grew more interested in less tangible aspects of culture, such as values, worldview and what Clifford Geertz termed the “ethos” of the culture. Clifford Geertz’s own fieldwork used elements of a phenomenological approach to fieldwork, tracing not just the doings of people, but the cultural elements themselves. For example, if within a group of people, winking was a communicative gesture, he sought to first determine what kinds of things a wink might mean (it might mean several things). Then, he sought to determine in what contexts winks were used, and whether, as one moved about a region, winks remained meaningful in the same way. In this way, cultural boundaries of communication could be explored, as opposed to using linguistic boundaries or notions about residence. Geertz, while still following something of a traditional ethnographic outline, moved outside that outline to talk about “webs” instead of “outlines” of culture.
Within cultural anthropology, there are several sub-genres of ethnography. Beginning in the 1950s and early 1960s, anthropologists began writing “bio-confessional” ethnographies that intentionally exposed the nature of ethnographic research. Famous examples include Tristes Tropiques (1955) by Claude Lévi-Strauss, The High Valley by Kenneth Read, and The Savage and the Innocent by David Maybury-Lewis, as well as the mildly fictionalized Return to Laughter by Elenore Smith Bowen (Laura Bohannan). Later “reflexive” ethnographies refined the technique to translate cultural differences by representing their effects on the ethnographer. Famous examples include “Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight” by Clifford Geertz, Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco by Paul Rabinow, The Headman and I by Jean-Paul Dumont, and Tuhami by Vincent Crapanzano. In the 1980s, the rhetoric of ethnography was subjected to intense scrutiny within the discipline, under the general influence of literary theory and post-colonial/post-structuralist thought. “Experimental” ethnographies that reveal the ferment of the discipline include Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man by Michael Taussig, Debating Muslims by Michael F. J. Fischer and Mehdi Abedi, A Space on the Side of the Road by Kathleen Stewart, and Advocacy after Bhopal by Kim Fortun.
Sociology is another field which prominently features ethnographies. Urban sociology and the Chicago School in particular are associated with ethnographic research, with some well-known early examples being Street Corner Society by William Foote Whyte and Black Metropolis by St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton, Jr.. Some of the influence for this can be traced to the anthropologist Lloyd Warner who was on the Chicago sociology faculty, and to Robert Park’s experience as a journalist. Symbolic interactionism developed from the same tradition and yielded several excellent sociological ethnographies, including Shared Fantasy by Gary Alan Fine, which documents the early history of fantasy role-playing games. Other important ethnographies in the discipline of sociology include Pierre Bourdieu’s work on Algeria and France, Paul Willis’s Learning To Labour on working class youth, and the work of Elijah Anderson, Mitchell Duneier, Loic Wacquant on black America and Glimpses of Madrasa From Africa, 2010 Lai Olurode. But even though many sub-fields and theoretical perspectives within sociology use ethnographic methods, ethnography is not the sine qua non of the discipline, as it is in cultural anthropology.
 Communication studies
Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, ethnographic research methods began to be widely employed by communication scholars. Studies such as Gerry Philipsen’s analysis of cultural communication strategies in a blue-collar, working class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, Speaking ‘Like a Man’ in Teamsterville, paved the way for the expansion of ethnographic research in the study of communication.
Scholars of communication studies use ethnographic research methods to analyze communication behaviors, seeking to answer the “why” and “how come” questions of human communication. Often this type of research results in a case study or field study such as an analysis of speech patterns at a protest rally or the way firemen communicate during “down time” at a fire station. Like anthropology scholars, communication scholars often immerse themselves, participate in and/or directly observe the particular social group being studied.
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