A picture named dd10.jpg

"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Nancy blogged my session - I enjoyed talking about the blog we set up for the Pitney Bowes project. I did run badly over time and wish i had had more time to talk about other social tools like VOIP, wikis, tagging etc that would be so useful for global projects of this nature.

I also discovered all full papers are available at the EPIC 2005 Website (pdf file).

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Using photographic data to build a large-scale global comparative visual ethnography of domestic spaces: can a limited data set capture the complexities of 'sociality'? Simon Pulman-Jones - GfK-NOP

This is a study I had done the India portion of the ethnographies through Social Solutions, and it's great to see how it was all pulled together.

"Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning" Clifford Geertz

The survey is a visual documentation of consumer homes over 240 households in 12 countries, on an ongoing basis and is a multi-client. First start with a mapping of global consumer "value profiles along dimensions of Fun, People, Power and Tradition. Value segments that have emerged - creatives, fun-seekers, strivers, altruists, devouts, intimates. Interesting, altruists and intimates drop and strivers increase perhaps due to the economic boom in India and China.

The VSDS (Visual Study of Domestic Spaces). To do conventional ethnography would have been prohibitively expensive, so visual ethnographies were done. The study covered nine functional areas - food preparation, consumption, relaxation/leisure, sleep, "center", personal hygiene, home office,motor vehicle, maintenance. The images were coded then. They allowed an illustration of quantitative findings and data.

"the photograph in anthropology is as much a means of discovering information as it is of presenting that which has been founf ... a locus of dialoguing rather than as a source of information in itself." The value of the image in ethnographic fieldwork is here precisely in its intermediary

The value wasn't just in illustrating quantitative findings, but to reveal new things and throw up new hypotheses. The primacy of the visual data perhaps was different than what would have been achieved through narrative articulation of participants.

Risks - it can pull people out of their more social contexts, falling into the trap of physical spaces and material objects becoming the defining the individual.

Questions : does what you do become archaeology instead of ethnography? At what point in the process does this distinction happen? A - The method does have similarity with archaeology, and what we attempted to do is work with the virtues of that reality - that we don't have representations of narratives and experiences. We probably have a lot to learn from looking at archaelogical practices.

Q - what do you personally find most challenging working with data sets like this ? A - its a real challenge to abandon one's normal facility with manipulating narrative data sets. Recognise there are skills and knowledge sets in analysing visual data.

Q - mystified by what you did - there seemed to be a lot of information there that wasn't in the photographs - how did you get the detailing around the pictures? A - researcher notes.

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Jo Pierson, Bram Lievens & Pieter Ballon, Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication (SMIT) Interdisciplinary institute for BroadBand Technology (IBBT) Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)

Talking of e-paper project -- which is a handheld reading device, using e-Ink technology. How can a living lab setting based on ethnogrpahic principles be used in Sociality. A living lab - is TEP - test and experiment platform. Early in innovation process, and facilitates design. Characterisitics - the use of natural user envt, multi-methodological approaches and ethnographic methods.

Phases of living lab -
1.Contextualisation - desk research with broad focus, technogical and socio-economic scanning. Hoovering, picking or selection criteria that solves the lack of clarity between the 'who' and the 'what'
2. Concretisation - initial measurement - fixed components like demographics and ICT adoption and usage, and variable components - reading profile and news consumption. Then simultaneous and phased introduction.
3. Implementation - Spotting and Digging - Direct analysis - more technical analyses and now ethnographic methods being incorporated too. And Indirect analysis - focus groups, in depth interviews, self-reporting techniques
4. Feedback - Matching phase - ex-post measurement - survey methods, identifying changes in user behaviour, and to look at changes in the level of social structure and motivations, so recommendations can be made in an iterative process.

The value of this approach :

Individual company -- helps to structure 'fuzzy front-end', multimethodological approach, sociality and unpredictable uses thrown up, and how this all affects home, work and on the road life. At another level, when looking at a cluster of companies, you can assess pre-competitive setting and work better to systematic innovation.

Question - What pitfalls in the project ? A - how to define a living lab, and how to select cases were challenges. Also how to combine and link together quantitative and ethnographic methods.

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Brinda Dalal & Pat Swenton-Wall, PARC Inc. & Xerox Corporation.

Spirit of Gift in Business - how does it emerge in business settings, and what rewards as a result. They speak of ethnography in Service Encounters. How it transforms the scope and definition of our work. Evolution of Methods and Tools - visual representations connect better. Portfolio consists of a library of icons in a graphics toolkit. They are even being used in ways the developers hadn't envisioned.

Conclusions ... representations help put people back into the forefront. They embody a common referent that be shared by the customer and employers. They provde more than expected on behalf of both the customer and the companies we work for.

Update: I met Brinda in the hallways ... and she asked me weren't we together in Sociology class at St. Xavier's in Mumbai, and I must say I didn't initially recognise her, and then suddenly I had this vision of this beautiful girl with long flowing hair, always in loose kurtas, interesting earrings, and a wonderful smile.  And she was right here, shorter hair, and more 'corporate' looking, but still the same eyes and smile :). It is such a small world !

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