Tag Archives: user experience

The Addiction Algorithm: An interview with Natasha Dow Schüll


Addiction by Design, book coverEM: Can you tell me a little bit about your book?

NDS: I was in the first cohort of the Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar postdoctoral program. I was definitely an outlier as a cultural anthropologist, but the pitch I made to them at the time was that research angles on addiction should include more qualitative work, and should also attend to the addictive effects of consumer interfaces and technology, not just drugs, as a public health issue.

I think any good addiction researcher would recognize that addiction is in a large part a question of the timing of rewards or reinforcements, or the so-called event frequency. So it makes sense that if digitally-mediated forms of gambling like slot machines are able to intensify the event frequency to a point where you’re playing 1,200 hands an hour, then they’re more addictive. Waiting for your turn at a poker game, by contrast, isn’t as fast – there are lots of pauses and lots of socializing in-between hands. Slot machines are solitary, continuous, and rapid. Uncertainty is opened up and then it’s closed — so quickly that it creates a sense of merging with the machine.

If you accept that gambling can be an addiction, you can then broaden the conversation to include other less obviously addictive contemporary experiences, whether it’s an eBay auction or Facebook photo clicking or even just checking email, and certainly texting. It’s so compelling to take your fingertip and just keep clicking, clicking to get that response.

EM: That’s fascinating. Or this word game on my phone — it’s become really, really addictive for me. I’m curious if you’ve had interactions also with people in game design? There’s a certain point of view that seems really prevalent right now about game design and play.

NDS: People in the general world of game and app design don’t see themselves as in the business of producing addiction but they have reached out to me. Often they want to hear about how to avoid creating addiction.

I was recently invited out to the Habit Summit, an event in Silicon Valley held at Stanford, with lots of local tech people who are all there to figure out how to design habit, how to retain attention. In my presentation to them, I talked about the increasing prevalence of little ludic loops in design, as ways to retain attention. With Candy Crush and so many phone apps, if you ride a subway in the morning there are people sitting there zoning out on these little devices. I think the reason they’re so able to retain attention and form habits is that they are affect modulators. They’re helping people to modulate and manage their moods. It’s addictive because it’s right there at your fingertips, and you’re able to reach out and just start clicking this thing to create a stimulus response loop.There are more and more moments of zoning out – to use a phrase from the slot machine gamblers – moments that are configured very much like a slot machine in terms of the continuous, rapid little loop where something is opened up and then it’s closed… open it up and then it’s kill the monster; kill the monster again; kill the monster again.

It’s so compelling to take your fingertip and just keep clicking, clicking to get that response.

Read More… The Addiction Algorithm: An interview with Natasha Dow Schüll

Play nice: design ethnographer meets management consultant, an interview with Alicia Dudek from Deloitte Digital


dudek-hi-res-headshotAlicia Dudek (@aliciadudek) is a design ethnographer and user experience consultant at Deloitte Digital Australia. She has experience in designing and conducting customer focused qualitative research in a professional services and academic environment. Her experience includes delivering useful, in-depth, and straight from the field customer insights for diverse industries including healthcare, agriculture, finance, telecommunications, and tourism. Her entrance to the ethnographic insights industry began at the University of Dundee’s Master in Design Ethnography program. She previous worked in product management and residential construction project management.

What are the most forward thinking management consulting firms doing? Hiring ethnographers. That’s right. In this post for the January EPIC theme, I interviewed Alicia Dudek (@aliciadudek) from Deloitte Digital Australia. Through our hallway conversations at the Royal Institution, I found out that Alicia is Deloitte‘s first design ethnographer in Australia. At Deloitte, she has worked in a diversity of fields from health care, agriculture, finance, telecommunications, and tourism. In our interview, Alicia talks about her experience in designing and conducting customer focused qualitative research in a professional services and academic environment. She provides additional answers to the question I posed in the opening post of this series, Why Go to an Ethnography Conference? 

Alicia posted additional reflections on EPIC 2013 on the Deloitte Digital blog (Deeply understanding your future customer, ethnographically speaking). If you want to find out more about Alicia’s work, be sure to read her fascinating guest post on Ethnography Matters co-authored with Rachel Shadoan where they discussed their use of hybrid methods (Plant Wars Player Patterns: Visualization as Scaffolding for Ethnographic Insight). Check out Alicia’s website for a  treasure trove of links and thoughts.

For more posts from this January EPIC edition curated by contributing editor Tricia Wang, follow this link.

image source: Alicia Dudek

So Alicia, thanks for chatting with me for our January Epic theme. So tell me, why did you go to EPIC?
A few years ago when our cohort was studying on the masters of design ethnography course at the university in Dundee, our course leader was Catriona Macaulay, an organiser and participant in the EPIC community.  She often mentioned the conference, its proceedings, and most of all the people who participated. Since then I have always viewed it as a goal to attend. This was my first year at the conference and it was even better than expected, especially to be listening to many of my heroes in the halls of the Royal Institution in London.

At EPIC 2013 and so excited to be meeting my ethnography heroes in the science and history soaked halls of the Royal Institution.

At EPIC 2013 and so excited to be meeting my ethnography heroes in the science and history soaked halls of the Royal Institution.

What did you learn at EPIC?
I learned that big data was a big deal to ethnographers. I learned that everyone is still figuring out how to do ethnography in diverse and new environments. I learned that the only way we get better, faster, stronger is by sharing stories in words, on film, in video, or even live (if your budget allows). The lesson that constraints breed creativity was reinforced again and again, as researchers showcased many Macgyver worthy data collection methods. The most important thing I learned was that every single person there was always working for the work itself. You can say that it is a place where passionate and curious ethnographers converge.

How did you end up at your current role as design ethnographer at Deloitte Digital in Australia?
A few years ago Deloitte Digital was one of the early adopters of design thinking and customer experience research as core business drivers. This is part of a design thinking methodology that is being spread throughout Deloitte Australia.  I like to think that the people who hired me in Deloitte Digital thought that a design ethnographer made sense in the user experience team and were willing to roll the dice. In the time since I came on board I have spent a significant amount of time learning about technology development, user experience methods, business analysis and interaction design. Our national team works as more of an experience design team that pulls together diverse skill sets to research, design, and develop holistic customer experiences. Ethnographic work in this case usually lives in the problem definition and customer research areas of the design process.Read More… Play nice: design ethnographer meets management consultant, an interview with Alicia Dudek from Deloitte Digital

An Interview with the head of User Research at the UK Government Digital Services: Leisa Reichelt


leisa_square-1Leisa Reichelt (@leisa) is the Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service in the Cabinet Office. She leads a team of great researchers who work in agile, multidisciplinary digital teams to help continuously connect the people who design products with the people who will use them and support experimentation and ongoing learning in product design. 

We are excited to interview Leisa Reichelt (@leisa) for our January EPIC theme at Ethnography Matters.  I met Leisa at EPIC 2103 in London at Mark Vanderbeeken’s townhall meeting on Big Data. When Mark told me about Leisa’s work, I became sooo excited because I just love talking to UX brains who are obsessed with strategy. While UX designers and ethnographic researchers engage in very different processes, both are creating products and processes for organizations–organizations that are often resistant to change. We are lucky to have Leisa share her thoughts on this topic in our interview.  Leisa is also looking for passionate people to join her team at Government Digital Service! Read more to find out the details.

For more posts from this January EPIC edition curated by contributing editor Tricia Wang, follow this link.

Tricia:  Leisa, thanks so much for taking time out to chat with me! So let’s get straight to it – you think most UX is shite. When you wrote a blog about this in 2012, the reaction was just amazing! People were beyond happy that you laid it all out. While many designers have made similar arguments, your polemic essay stood out because you tackled one of the major issues that are often ignored – how organizational culture leads to bad UX.

Leisa: It was definitely one advantage of being a freelancer – I was able to say exactly what I thought without worrying about how it reflected on my employer. I get really tired of organisations not walking the talk when it comes to user experience. It’s very easy to say that customers are your number one priority, but for most it will require some pretty fundamental change to actually follow through on this, and most aren’t up for it. Hiring a bunch of designers and researchers and sending out lots of surveys doesn’t cut it. You need to empower those teams to do good work and push the user focus throughout the entire organisation, not just attempt to delegate it to a UX team.

Tricia:  So a year or so after your post, you entered into a behemoth of an organization – the UK government! Why did you take this job on and what it is like to be inside an organizational structure that is not known to be easy for designers and cultural change?

Screenshot 2014-01-16 14.16.41

Leisa: I’m not sure I would have been so brave if not for the work that the Government Digital Service had done well before I joined. Through the process of designing and launching GOV.UK they laid out a great example of how a clear focus on user needs proliferating throughout an entire team can lead to great outcomes for citizens.

I initially joined to work on a really interesting identity project but saw a great opportunity to help GDS become even better at understanding and focusing on user needs by better integrating user research into agile teams. Government is a challenging environment to work in, but it is full of people who are really committed to doing the best they can for their country and its citizens. Traditionally a lot of research in government has still placed a lot of distance between the people who make the decisions (whether it’s interface decisions or policy decisions) and the people who are affected by those decisions. We  are trying to close that gap and help enable teams to be able to see what the impact of their decisions will be for citizens. It’s exciting to see how enthusiastic people throughout government are to do much more of this kind of work and how well it works within the agile process.Read More… An Interview with the head of User Research at the UK Government Digital Services: Leisa Reichelt

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.

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

User experiences: fear, delight, and drug use research


"User" definition from dictionary.com

Screen capture from dictionary.com

 

I work at a research center that studies the use of various legal and illegal drugs, generally with a focus on preventing “misuse.” It can be an awkward topic of conversation socially. The whole notion conjures up images of Mr. Mackey from South Park and terrible anti-drug propaganda.

And honestly, not without reason. Research funders have agendas, and a funder’s concept of misuse is not always the same as what a community sees as misuse — which can make ethnographic research complicated.

So many messages about alcohol and drugs seem fueled by moral panic,  but I don’t think it’s an ethnographer’s business to judge people’s consumption. Panics over drugs remind me of panics over technology and the things it “makes” us do.  This trailer for the 1936 anti-drug movie Reefer Madness reads like technological determinism (material determinism?). People don’t just use marijuana in Reefer Madness, but they are used by it:

What can make sex crazed zombies of us all?
What can force us to kill?
What is the most despicable danger facing our children today?
The reefer! The reefer! The reefer!

Also, Google is making us stupid, and Facebook is making us lonely.Read More… User experiences: fear, delight, and drug use research