Nokiaâ€™s ethnographic research sounds basic, even primitive. Itâ€™s akin to Dr. Livingston in â€œDarkest Africa,â€ sussing out the â€œnativesâ€: how many yams they eat in a week, who tells the iconic stories, what clans do to maintain hegemony, etc. Very ho-hum, except that the technology is â€œcool.â€ Cellphone ethnographic research, so far as I can tell, studies behaviors related to product use but as the snippet in BW reveals, not the inner workings of cellphone users — how they relate to cellphones in phenomenological ways, for example.
This quote comes from a post on the anthrodesign Yahoo! group which immediately provoked reactions. It is still going on.
Tyler of Sprint Nextel supports Chipchase but arguest that “we need a comprehensive theory of design that works for anthropology (or human research for commerce)”, whereas Sridhar Dhulipala points to a report in the Times of India, Bangalore, on the usage of mobile phones. Whereas the Nokia report strikes as typical corporate leadership behaviour, Dhulipala thinks that this other story provides a contrasting insight.
Christina Bolas, an anthropologist at Sprint Nextel, was recently involved in “true ethnography of cell phone use” beyond the basic â€œneeds assessmentâ€ or â€œbehaviors related to product useâ€, but her main difficulty was “getting the results heard and supported by the pile of people needed to make real change in the industry”. She concludes: “Not only do we need a comprehensive theory of design that works for anthropology, but we also need a theory that takes into account the inevitable world of corporate politics within which that theory must live.”
Finally, Molly Wright Steenson (a former Interaction-Ivrea colleague) underlines the intrinsic value of the ethnographic approach as it greatly change what you expected to find.