Ethnographic research on vehicular design in China
Zach Hyman is based in Chongqing, China on a year long ethnographic dive into creative practices of vehicular design among resource-constrained users. After four months in the field, Zach shares with Ethnography Matters his first field update.
His observations on low-tech vehicles are incredibly relevant for the current global shifts in automative production. China is now the largest car market. But many Western companies are discovering that simply transferring a car designed for Western users does not appeal to Asian users. Point in case GMâ€™s Cadillac, a car built for American consumers fails to connect to Chinese consumers. Itâ€™s no surprise to an audience of ethnographers that cultural values inform design decisions, but companies like GM are having to learn the hard way.
A deep understanding of workersâ€™ current vehicle practices reveals new opportunities to develop vehicles that challenge the current domination of resource-intensive cars. One entrepreneur, Joel Jackson, created Mobius One in Kenya with local welders to overcome transport challenges. The result? A $6,000 low-tech car made for Africa. Like Joel, Zachâ€™s research contributes to a growing group of designers and entrepreneurs who will create a new class of vehicles.