Tag Archives: ethnography

Recently discovered: medical robobear, UX reading, fast ethnography, useful websites


♦ WIRED has a story about this fuzzy bear robot developed at the MIT Media Lab for use with children in medical settings. They’re running a pilot study now. The video won’t embed, but you can watch it here. If it seems the bear is surprisingly aware and interactive, that’s because he’s more of a puppet, controlled Wizard of Oz style by a person at a laptop hidden nearby.

♦ This UX Reading List is a great resource for people interested in, as the author puts it, the disciplines of “User Research, Usability, Information Architecture, User-Interface Design, Interaction Design, Content Strategy or Experience Strategy”.

♦ When learning to be anthropologists, especially doing ethnographic research, we’re taught the value of time. Hanging out is a valid research technique, in the context of apparently doing little but observing, building relationships, or simply letting others get used to having you there.  A year of field work is a nice start. So, it’s really a change to think of writing ethnography quickly, to contribute an anthropological point of view as events unfold in a digital age. This essay by Yarimar Bonilla on Savage Minds would have sparked a big debate in some of my university classrooms, especially with my most traditional professor who would chide us with repeated lines like, “Anthropologists do not guess or predict! They describe, clarify, and contextualize!” (I break her rules all the time, as do most anthropologists I’ve known.)

♦ Lifehacker has a list of single-purpose websites that do exactly what they claim to do. I’ve used a couple of them and I’d add Can I Stream It? (, too.


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Wednesday film: Ethnography in development and design

This TEDxBroadway talk by Ellen Isaacs provides some great examples of how ethnography can be useful for practical, modern problem-solving. Anthropologists haven’t been very successful at changing the mainstream image of our profession; when critics see it as a useless study, I think they have images of Margaret Mead or The Gods Must Be Crazy in their heads, but anthropology provides a toolkit that is valuable in many situations. In this 12 minute video, Isaacs talks about ethnography’s use in interface design and also her recent studies of parking.

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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Research, Video


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