Author Archives | John Payne

Renewing Ethnography: Exploring The Role of Applied Ethnography At EPIC 2012 [guest contributor]

Editor’s note: This month’s guest contributor, John Payne, is also the co-chair of EPIC 2012, an annual conference for ethnographers working in  industry. Below, John shares with us some of the highlights for this year’s conference, like guest speakers and panels. We’ll be hearing more from John about history of ethnography as a method in design.  In the meantime, it’s not too late to register for EPIC!

If you are attending EPIC in Savannah, we would love to feature your notes and experience! 

And do read over John Payne’s insightful 3-part series post in this month’s edition of Ethnography Matters: Teaching Ethnography For User Experience: A Workshop On Occupy Wall Street.  -Tricia

Check out past guest bloggers. Ethnography Matters is always lining up guest contributors, we would love to feature your work! Send us an email!

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After several years of economic recession, a year of political ferment and the rise of the global Occupy movement, it is hard not to conclude that renewal is part of the zeitgeist of our times. This opens up an important question for those who practice applied ethnography: What’s our role in renewal and how and why might we renew ourselves?

This year, EPIC (The Ethnographic Praxis In Industry Conference) takes on the ambitious topic of Renewal, renewal of economies, of society, of business and of the practice of ethnography itself. What are our responses when calls for renewal are made inside and outside of the organizations in which we live and work? Are we agents of renewal or do we have a role to play challenging such agendas? We invite you to join us and a few hundred of your peers in ethnographic practice this October 14th -17th at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA for the 8th annual gathering of EPIC to discuss these, and other critical questions.

Our program includes three-and-a-half days of presentations of peer-reviewed papers, short and ‘to the point’ Pecha Kucha presentations, workshops to expand and share your skills, and an artifact installation (an expansion of our posters category). Recognizing that the value of events like this are truly realized through informal conversation, we have designed in spaces and times for reflection, conversation and dialogue with our presenters.

In addition, we welcome an invited panel on the intersection of ethnography and design, and our two Keynote speakers, Emily Pilloton, 2009 Pop Tech Social Innovation Fellow and founder of non-profit design firm Project H Design, and Philip Delves Broughton, journalist and bestselling author of The Art Of The Sale: Learning From The Masters About The Business of Life.

Rounding out the program are our social activities. We are lucky enough to have an exhibition, on loan from AIGA, of posters from Occupy Wall Street and a series of Local Pursuits to facilitate direct engagement with some of the cultural and economic organizations who contribute directly to the ongoing renewal of Savannah itself. Each Local Pursuit sets attendees out into Savannah on an adventure to discover aspects of it’s 279-year history-it’s exemplary but sometimes troubled relationship with preservation and renewal. We are lucky to be in Savannah this year as it offers a unique context in which to explore and reflect on the conference theme.

Intrigued? Well the countdown to the conference is on and it’s time to register – do it now to take advantage of our ‘early bird’ rate of $299. We hope to see you there.

John Payne
Simon Roberts
EPIC Co-Chairs

For further information, check out EPIC on the web:

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Teaching Ethnography For User Experience: A Workshop On Occupy Wall Street

Editor’s note: A few weeks ago, we saw our twitter stream light up with John Payne’s work on ethnography of Occupy. We quickly reached out to John and asked him to guest post on Ethnography Matters. 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.

What struck us about John’s work was that he was teaching ethnography to non-ethnographers and emphasizing the importance of it to his work as a designer. We wish all designers would say this! Perhaps this is one of the reason why John’s company that he co-founded, Moment, is so successful. They have created mobile applications from enterprise software to consumer apps for clients large and small.

We are lucky to have John respost the 3-part series with a new introduction on Ethnography Matters!  Follow John Payne on twitter. And do check out Moment’s great blog, we’re following them! – Tricia

A bit more about John: 

As a Principal at Moment, John brings a passion for research and design methodologies to his teams, helping teams gain the empathy necessary to create great products for clients. In addition, John has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in design methodology at Parsons and NYU and is Co-chair of EPIC 2012, The Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference. Educated at Auburn University and Institute of Design at IIT (the New Bauhaus), John has, over the course of his 20+ year career, focused on designing groundbreaking physical and digital products that transform users’ relationships with their devices.

Check out past guest bloggers. Ethnography Matters is always lining up guest contributors, we would love to feature your work! Send us an email!

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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.

This series originally appeared on Moment’s blog as a series titled “Ethnography for User Experience.”

Part One

I was recently asked by IxDA NY’s local leadership to lead a workshop on Ethnography for User Experience. Ethnography, as both a term and a discipline, is often misunderstood so I was happy to have the opportunity to give my perspective on it and on what it can contribute to User Experience Design. Ethnography was formalized as a research approach in the social sciences, specifically within the discipline of anthropology, where it is commonly employed to describe human societies and cultures. In that setting, ethnography refers to a suite of qualitative research methodologies such as participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, etc. as well as the interpretive output of that research.

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