1 September 2012

John Payne on his Occupy Wall Street ethnography

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A few weeks ago, Tricia Wang asked John Payne, a principal of Moment, to write a guest post on Ethnography Matters about his ethnographic field work on Occupy Wall Street.

John had facilitated a 2 and half day course of ethnographic fieldwork on Occupy for designers and blogged a series of 3 very thoughtful posts about the experience, which are now reposted on Ethnography Matters, with this new introduction:

“Successful adoption of products (physical or digital) relies heavily on an individual’s ability to judge appropriateness, usefulness and ease-of-use. As a practicing designer, I have long employed an ethnographic approach to better understand the people and organizations my firm designs for, to give them products that not only address their needs, but that also actually make sense in their everyday lives.

As any reader of this blog knows, ethnography has proven invaluable at getting beyond “user needs,” to reveal the shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that influence decisions about adoption and ongoing use. But the influence of cultural factors on product design are sorely lacking from the discussion of user experience.

To address that challenge, last fall I taught a workshop on ethnography as applied to user experience design for the New York chapter of the IxDA. We took as our research site Liberty Square, a.k.a Zucotti Park, ground zero to the Occupy Wall Street movement and spent a cold winter afternoon there, visiting, observing, and engaging with the occupiers in their two month old encampment. Our goal, to determine what, if any, design interventions would improve their ability to communicate and coordinate their protest.

The post that follows was originally a three-part discussion presenting ethnography to an audience of designers and describing what we learned from our afternoon there, the ideas that emerged from our analysis, and the value that ethnography brings to user experience work.”

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