Sunday, February 1, 2009

Class on Friday, 1/30

Pat Christian from Hopelab came in today, and had some great tips on how in situ ethnographies could be used in effective product development--in her organization's case, video games that empower children with cancer. Her guidance was powerful for its simplicity: she advised us to be humble and respectful to our subjects, and to be mindful of who does most of the talking when we approach subjects for our ethnographies.

She gave us a really instructive tutorial in those listening techniques, simply by being on listening end of our pod project ethnographies. In response to the team working on privacy issues, and on debunking the myth that private people are anti-social, she asked an interesting questions about private people's social networks, and whether they were linked to others who consider themselves private. It was a question that was, in itself, illustrative of the potential of the team's project of connecting individuals who might not want to broadcast their lives online.

The team focused on boosting adolescent girls' self-esteem gave us a great montage of photos, quotes and music--I myself am a sucker for the great KT Tunstall--and a good example of how open-ended questioning can lead to great insights. When they talked with girls in East Palo Alto, they'd simply asked them about their passions, and from there, realized that these girls didn't always have access to the things they loved doing.

Team College Football Reform had some great anecdotes about dietary-profiling their rabid football fan subject by bringing him donuts, only to discover that he lived more of a smoothie lifestyle. Their presentation, I thought, was particularly interesting that they juxtaposed their preconceived notions about football fans' opinions of the BCS with his actual thoughts on that much-maligned insitution. Pat offered some great tactical tips about how to mobilize fans against an undefined foe (the BCS), and how to leverage their anger in support of underdog players and teams--sentiments that could go far in the current economic environment.

The organ donation team gave us some really interesting information on what the problems facing transplant doctors really are; their interviews must have been very thorough. The deceased's families, they discovered, were really the critical decision-makers--not, as I'd thought, the would-be donors themselves. They gave a great presentation, giving us not only tons of information about the problem, but exploring ways to change the behavior of the key target, families in the position of deciding whether to donate the organs of their loved ones or not.

The group focusing on yoga classes for girls in juvenile detention offered up some powerful images that the girls had made themselves; Pat noted that those images could be very effective in marketing their cause. And the team focusing on education inequality gave the class a great example of something I think of as the "zoom-lens" approach that this class has us taking. Their cause, education inequality, is a huge one, but through talking with the principal of an East Palo Alto Charter school, they were able to zoom in on the small ways change could be enacted, such as bringing students to a university class, or providing money for books.

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