Monday, 21 March 2011

Assignment 4: Interviews.

Assignment four asked us to use all the skills we have learnt so far to conduct interviews and gather information on a chosen topic. The topic I decided to investigate was ‘what object do people treasure the most and why?’
To help me decide on questions that were most relevant to ask I did a quick brainstorming exercise and a mind map. The brainstorming gave a clearer image of the topic and the issues surrounding it. Before I only had the one question, ‘what object do you treasure and why?’ After brainstorming I came up with a list of related questions that would give me the information I wanted and gain answers with greater depth. 

The questions I decided to ask were as follows:

  • What object do you treasure the most?
  • Can you sketch it for me?
  • Who is it from? How did you acquire it?
  • When did you acquire it?
  • How did you first feel about it? How do you feel about it now?
  • How much was it? How much is it worth now to you/ to someone else?
  • Would you sell it?
  • How would you react if it was lost or stolen?
  • How often do you use it?
  • Where do you keep it?
  • Do you think you will still treasure it in 30 years? Why?
  • Why do you think you treasure this object?
  • Brainstorming exercise.

The interview style chosen was semi-structured, this meant that my questions were there as a guide but I didn’t have to stick to them. I could follow up any answers I found interesting or create new questions if I felt it was necessary.

I interviewed three people who were friends of friends and flatmates of friends. We arranged to meet in relaxed environments where we could both feel comfortable. I met one person at a pub and the others at their flats. I brought consent forms with me which they signed before I began the interview. The three people I interviewed were; Derek Li, aged 27, civil servant, Lisa Fitzgerald, 24, H.R. advisor and John Hendry, 25, primary teacher.

I wanted to incorporate a Service Design Tool into the interviews which would break the ice and make it a little more interactive so the interviewee didn’t just have to answer questions. I decided to get them to sketch their treasured object at the start of the interview and at the end do a brainstorming exercise about their object. The brainstorming would be a good way of achieving answers and thoughts that may not have been addressed by the questions. I thought it would bring out words that they were subconsciously thinking about the object as that happened when I was brainstorming for question ideas.

I was quite surprised by the answers and they were all very different from each other. Lisa’s most treasured object was her i-Phone because it helped her connect and keep her life organised. John’s was his photos from Camp America as they reminded him of the happiest time of his life. Derek’s most treasured object was his necklace with his jade “polo mint” on it because it was from his mother and makes him feel protected.

After discussing my findings and doing another brainstorming session I began to interpret what I found.

The objects people treasure the most are not necessarily expensive items as you can see from John’s treasured object, his photos. They are usually items with sentimental value that may appear to be worthless to someone else. This was discussed in a Design Studies lecture before Christmas many people found that their favourite Christmas gift was something that wouldn’t be worth a lot of money now but they still love because of how it made them feel and the memories attached to it.

John and Derek said that their objects were priceless and irreplaceable something that they will treasure forever. However Lisa said that she will get rid of her most treasured object, her i-Phone, as she will up grade it to a newer version in a couple of years. For the time being Lisa’s object is priceless to her as it stores important private information and she feels she needs it to function in her daily routine. This object will be replaceable and she will no doubt treasure its replacement. I don’t think it’s the physical item Lisa treasures but what it holds.

I think that a person’s most treasured object can be affected by their up bringing and their personality. Derek’s jade from his mum that he wears on a necklace shows this. He says he never takes it off even when sleeping and washing. I asked him why he always wears it, he said it’s like a “safety blanket” when he was given it he was told it would keep away evil spirits and bad luck. I asked if any other members of his family wore jade for the same reasons, he said yes and told me that many Chinese people wear it as they believe it protects. People from a different culture would not value a jade necklace in the same way as Derek because they may not know the meaning behind it. Derek was brought up with this necklace and the story behind it so it is very precious to him. Value is “personal opposed to universal: that an object has sentimental value for a particular person does not entail that it ought to have sentimental value for anyone else…” Anthony Hatzimoysis.

My interviewing technique still has to be improved upon. One of the main things I didn’t like about it was that I felt too rehearsed and a bit wooden when I was conducting the interview. I think that if I was more relaxed maybe I would have been able to ask more questions that may have let me dig deeper and achieve a greater variety of answers. I’m sure that this will come with practice, as I don’t interview people often this was probably the reason for feeling awkward. I do however think I’m a good listener and recorded all that was said so no important information was lost.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Assignment 3(C+D+E): Observe & Record.

For this part of the assignment we were asked to go out and observe people in an environment that we were unfamiliar with.

 I chose the Bingo to be my primary site and went along one afternoon with a few girls from my class. Before we could enter the bingo hall we had to sign up at the front desk and become members of ‘Mecca Bingo’. The staff were friendly and carefully explained what needed to be done. We then carried on past the noisy slot machines into the main hall. The first thing that struck me as soon as I opened the heavy door into the hall was the silence! No one was speaking except the bingo caller. We walked past the watchful eyes and up the stairs to get a seat. I felt like a trespasser. From upstairs we had a view of the whole hall and the people playing.

The numbers were being called out by a man who sounded like he was singing them, I’m not sure why this was maybe it gives the players some sort of rhythm when looking for the number called. The current number was also displayed on TV screens which are dotted around the hall for those who can’t hear the caller.

The hall had a very structured layout the tables and chairs were bolted to the floor in rows and had either 2 or four chairs round a table. The hall was also divided into sections by the colour of seat, green, blue or orange. The seat colours made it easier for the caller to direct the employee on the floor towards a potential winner to check their card.

The people playing were mainly over 60 and female although there were a few males there of the same age group. Their clothing was all fairly similar and nothing radical; plain colours, cardigans, blouses, and skirts or trousers. Most people that afternoon were sitting on their own or in pairs. The pairs would sit across the table from each other with their bags and jackets on the spare seat next to them. No one spoke until someone shouted “HOUSE!” then there was a buzz of chatting and I noticed that they spoke to people at the next table not just who they were with. It made the place feel a little friendlier until the numbers started getting called again and the silence returned. Some players used a hand held computer device instead of using the traditional cards and a pen.

The Bingo did make me feel like an outsider, walking in and leaving were awkward experiences where I just wanted to quickly sit down or get out. After a little while I became relaxed and joined in one of the games you could play on the table. Sadly I didn’t win anything. I found it stressful, panic filled me as the number was shouted out and I searched for it on my board. It seemed like the caller spoke quicker when I decided to play. The one thing I did find quite sad was that when someone won there was no round of applause or mini celebration the game just started again.

What I found links with Pierre Bourdieu’s theory that people do not go certain places as they are unsure how to act and feel uncomfortable. He also mentions that people have a preconception of what a place will be like, this may be in some cases a stereotypical view.  I did think that the Bingo would be filled with pensioners however I thought it would be a little livelier and a lot noisier.

My secondary site was the bus on my journey home. Everyone usually queues slightly back from the sign in a straight line next to each other. As more people join they usually go to side of the sign that has more people on it and join, or ask if it’s the back of the queue to be polite. Once the bus arrives it’s an unspoken rule that you wait for others to get off the bus before you get on and you let the people go on in the order of who was waiting at the bus stop first. When on the bus the teenagers and school kids usually go upstairs. Everyone takes a seat trying not to sit next to anyone unless completely necessary. When someone gets a double seat they either sit at the aisle seat leaving the window seat blocked off for anyone else or sit at the window and put all their belongings on the aisle seat to keep others away. Only when the bus is full do people grudgingly move towards the window or shift their coat.

In my observations one of the main things I found was that territory is a key theme and people mark their territory with their belongings. People like to be at least a seats distance apart from others I could see this in the Bingo and on the bus. Thinking about it now every time I go to the cinema I claim the seat next to me with my bag and the films I don’t enjoy are always the times when I’m sitting uncomfortably in a busy screen with a stranger next to me. Maybe not having the comfort of enough personal space ruins certain experiences. People who ride the bus regularly seem to have a preferred seat I always see a familiar face in the same area on the bus. You can see this in our Design Studies lecture every week, all the jewellers sit together in the same section, as do textiles, graphics, interiors and the product design students get moved to the front row. People don’t like change and feeling uncomfortable. I don’t know for sure but I would guess that in the Bingo hall all the regulars probably sit in the same seats every time they go.

I found this assignment a little tricky trying to identify which observations were important and what greater meaning they had. Hopefully with time my snooping will improve and give me a better insight into people’s lives.

Assignment 3 (B): Ethnography Primer.

After reading the 'Ethnography Primer'  I have a greater understanding of Ethnography. I had never come across the word before but the meaning is something I had known about and find very interesting, Ethnography is a valuable part of design.

Ethnography is a type of research that involves observing people in their natural environment. It will give a designer insight into what someone actually does and why they do it. This will prove more useful than simply asking a person a few questions in unfamiliar surroundings an ethnographer may observe things that the person may not even notice about themselves. “What people say is not what they do.”

When reading ‘Snoop’ by Sam Gosling the chapter I found most interesting was chapter 11 ‘Bringing it Home’. It introduces Chris Travis who creates homes for his clients that are perfectly matched to their personalities. He does this by identifying peoples connections to places both emotional and psychological. He then integrates these connections into the design. He does this at the beginning of the design process so that every step of the way the house is designed to fit the occupants. Although the book does not label Chris Travis as an ethnographer you can see that he works using this tool to his advantage.

I would love to create my designs using Ethnography it would give greater satisfaction to me and hopefully the user to know I have designed keeping them in mind creating something meaningful and useful to them. I have been trying to do this in my current project where I am designing offices for SEPA. However as they are a hypothetical client it has not been possible to observe them in their day to day activities but books such as ‘The New Office’ by Francis Duffy give insight into how people in office environments like to work and which layouts are proven to be more productive.

“A designer should care about ethnography because it can help produce more compelling, innovative design that really connects with users—in a way that creates delight.”
—Darrel Rhea, design research consultant.