Beyond Ethnography: How the design of social software obscures observation and intervention
Human-centered design, i.e., the design of products and services with the needs of the end-user or recipient in mind, has long been lauded as an essential skill in developing relevant and usable software. As software tools move from being about human-computer interaction to human-human interaction (as mediated through some sort of networked device), the focus must shift from extreme-user profiling to something more akin to ethnography, only with an intervention-heavy twist.
Gentry will share learnings from his work in the social software field, offering examples of how his training in ethnography helps him do his job, as well as insight as to where the work must move beyond traditional ethnographic methods in order to be successful.
Gentry Underwood heads IDEO’s Knowledge Sharing domain which focuses on facilitating large-scale collaboration through the human-centered application of technology. He began his career as a software designer after earning a degree in human-computer interaction from Stanford University. But, he left Silicon Valley and the world of start-ups to study psychology, anthropology, and community development. Today Gentry combines his social science and design backgrounds to focus on building collaborative systems that people actually want to use.
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