22 October 2012

How Xerox uses analytics, big data and ethnography to help government solve “big problems”

Be the first to share

Through the application of analytics to Big Data, as well as ethnography — the design and implementation of qualitative field studies to observe cultural patterns — Xerox is answering important questions about traffic congestion, our reaction to it, and how city governments most effectively can provide services to address this and related needs.

To explore these issues, Ben Kerschberg of Forbes interviewed together Ken Mihalyov, Xerox Chief Innovation Officer for Transportation Central and Local Government; and David Cummins, SVP, Parking and Justice Solutions.

Here are the ethnography questions:

Q: At what point do you think technology reaches its limits and thus requires ethnography to make the program as efficient as possible?

Ken Mihalyov: I think we’ve found that we like to get ethnography involved as early in the process as possible. There are things that we can certainly accomplish with our algorithms and Big Data alone. We can look at the data and see trends that we would not otherwise see. Ethnography is a strong counterpart to looking at the data a certain way and drawing conclusions from it. We can confirm that we’re working on the right problem, that we haven’t missed something and that our interpretations are correct. Ethnography helps us confirm those factors and that we’re seeing the bigger picture that includes human interaction.

Q: I can imagine that ethnography could be as important to observing a manufacturing line as it is to dynamic parking. Do you think there is an over-reliance on Big Data without looking at important human elements such as expertise gained by years on the line or on the streets?

David Cummins: I’m not sure that it’s Big Data versus ethnography, but rather we’ve found that they complement one another in indispensable ways.

Ken Mihalyov: Data can take you a long way, but when people are involved it’s not always the whole story. You need to understand and document the way things really work, especially the interactions between different processes. There’s very often a difference between what you expect to have happen and what’s actually happening when people are involved, and that’s very enlightening.

Be the first to share
6 June 2017
Developing a mobile chatbot for a Pittsburgh museum
The people at Studio, the design, development and workflow laboratory at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, are working on the design and the development of a "new kind of mobile museum experience". Because they would like the …
6 June 2017
First issue of Behavioural Public Policy now available for free online
Behavioural Public Policy is an interdisciplinary and international peer-reviewed journal devoted to behavioural research and its relevance to public policy. The study of human behaviour has recently taken on growing importance within many disciplinary specialties …
31 May 2017
Putting human thought behind chatbots
Business anthropologist Martha Bird's specialty is designing technologies that work for people, creating conversational user interfaces and chatbots that can serve different professional audiences across different geographies and different cultures. An interview excerpt: Why are people's …
31 May 2017
IoT seeks to remake the fundamentals of our everyday lives
Murray Goulden writes in The Conversation that smart homes, wearables and the Internet of Things are indicative of the development of an entire class of technologies seeking to remake the fundamentals of our everyday lives. These …
31 May 2017
A cultural approach to wearables (and the design opportunities it provides)
In January of this year, Sakari Tamminen and Elisabet Holmgren of the Finnish/USA innovation agency Gemic, published a paper on EPIC entitled "The Anthropology of Wearables: The Self, The Social, and the Autobiographical". A wide …
24 May 2017
A human-centric trust model for the Internet of Things
"Technologists have done a terrible job with security technology so far", writes David Maher, and "now we are about to impose those failures onto the physical world on a scale that only ubiquitous, pervasive, even …
9 May 2017
Data ethnographies: how do people live with data?
Data Ethnographies is a Lab of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC), at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Data Ethnographies investigates the implications of the increasing ubiquity of data in everyday lives and worlds. We …
28 April 2017
[Book] Quantitative Ethnography
Quantitative Ethnography David Williamson Shaffer Boswell Press Available April 2017 > Download Introduction > Watch video presentation This is a book about understanding why, in the digital age, the old distinctions between qualitative and quantitative research methods, between the sciences and …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

31 March 2017
Experientia guide to Milan Design Week 2017

It’s that time of year again – Milan’s don’t-miss event for the design community is here. If you’re looking to get inspired at Milan Design Week, then check out our top picks for the latest edition, from Experientia’s designers, strategists and partners. Milan might be best known for its busy streets, traditional cafés and world […]

12 January 2017
Experientia’s CITYOPT project awarded prestigious French award for its sustainable development design

Following the 2016 Smart Innovation Award at “FIMBACTE Trophées du Cadre de vie”, the CITYOPT project has once again been recognized, this time in the prestigious French design competition: “Observeur du Design 2017”, in the Service Design category. In June 2016, CITYOPT won the first stage of the Observeur du Design. Now the project has […]

1 December 2016
More on upcoming conference on design & sustainable innovation for smart cities

Last month Putting People First announced the upcoming conference on design & sustainable innovation for smart cities in Nice France. Meanwhile we are pleased to announce the full event agenda (see below). This event will feature professionals from leading research institutes and industry gathering to present key initiatives which combine Energy Efficiency and Service Design […]

29 October 2016
Upcoming conference on design & sustainable innovation for smart cities

Invitation to the International Conference on Design & Sustainable Innovation for SmartCities Nice (France) 8 December 2016 On the 8th December 2016, the CITYOPT project will host an international conference on Design and sustainable innovation for SmartCities, at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen, France. An open invitation to attend is offered to people and organisations who […]

28 October 2016
Experientia’s President, Michele Visciòla, panel judge for MacArthur Foundation’s “100&Change” competition

The 100&Change is an international competition and a landmark opportunity for thinkers and designers to tackle critical challenges affecting the world. Michele Visciòla will be one of the panel of expert judges who will select which project is worthy of the $100 million grant. 100&Change is the MacArthur Foundation competition – launched this year for […]

5 September 2016
Great engine, but the fuel seems poor. Discussing insight development in corporate marketing

The September issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) contains a lengthy essay, entitled Building an Insights Engine, on how Unilever has created the organizational capabilities to “transform data into insights about consumers’ motivations and to turn those insights into strategy.” The article was written by Frank van den Driest and Keith Weed of a […]

See all articles