Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Jan Chipchase – connections and consequences

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” I don’t have a clue what the future is going to look like, but I have a pretty good idea how people will behave when they get there.” 

We are just past user research week at CIID and I found this video to be both inspiration for what we learned as well as a great capsule on user research. Jan Chipchase, researcher at Nokia, sniffs out underlying causes and trends in social behavior in the world’s most interesting markets. In his talk he provides unconventional insights into the role and power of the ubiquitous cell phone, with examples from regions as diverse as Uganda to China.  His presentation is grounded in an overall framework of ‘ownership to use’ of objects (depicted in the screen grab below), with explorations in response to the simple question “what do people carry?” 

janchipchase - what do people carry?

Thoughts I found particularly interesting:
– Even women who carry bags “tap their pockets” when they leave a room. 
– People usually have a ‘center of gravity’ in their homes where their most important objects (in terms of ‘ carrying’ value) are kept. 
– The art of delegation – ‘delegating to other people’ as an effective alternative to ‘delegating to technology’.
–  Studying how the illiterate manage and communicate utility-centric information, like phone numbers.
– Sente – the fascinating system of sending money as airtime in Uganda.
– Some great examples of ‘street-up innovation’ and informal social knowledge networks that radically boost competitive advantage – an area of increasing interest for me.  
– Taking the functionality of everyday multi-functional devices like mobile phones or laptop computers and redistributing them into some kind of a personal area network that is worn on the body – where would we choose to put what?  
 – What does it mean when the identity of people is mobile – i.e centered around their ability to be ‘reachable’, ‘connected’?
– Consequences of a fully connected planet – immediacy of ideas and objects, benchmark of a ‘big idea’, unanticipated social innovation, inclusiveness in the ‘global conversation’, and most importantly, designing for a future that is driven by that conversation.

Jan also provides a few good examples of abstracting field learning into broader frameworks such a placing the cell phone as a tool of survival and recovery in maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the power of mobile phones to help transcend space and time

Here’s another page about Jan on ‘Researching in the Field’. For your benefit, I have copied his tips for research below: 

  • “Question everything” – being attuned to every action, behavior, detail – insight exists in everything.
  • “The participants are in control” – Jan emphasizes the importance of respecting the time and space offered by those he talks to and learns from.
  • “What motivates the team?” – maintaining motivation within the team of researchers and participants to keep people invested in what the study is about and what they hope to discover.
  • “Visible equality” – offering equality among participants and researchers – meaning if he and his colleagues stay in a hotel outside of the favela they’re studying, the participants within the favela are invited to come in and share their space.
  • “Define and communicate boundaries” – being as transparent as possible and acknowledging immovable boundaries. Participants in his ethnographic studies are given something to keep from the study (i.e. a USB stick with data gathered) – which also gives the researchers a sense of accountability – which helps guide what and how they do their study.    

Jan Chipchase blogs here. Here is an extended report on What people carry.

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Written by Ashwin Rajan

November 29, 2008 at 11:20 am

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