Keep Your Tools Clean

As ethnographers, we are the instruments of data collection.  While recording equipment and software packages like ATLASti are part of the collection process, we are ultimately the primary instruments of collection, analysis and dissemination.  With that in mind, it is wise to think about the tools we use before we start our work. Interviewing Tools […]

It’s Oh So Fascinating

In the last week I’ve been getting deeply interested in the interplay between cultural interpretations of environments and the biological responses to things like signage and all things shiny. I was asked what store displays I hoped would vanish in the coming years and I mentioned the now-redundant, bombastic, loud promotional pieces found in so […]

Metaphor as a Design Tool Also Works For Business Development

Retrieving concepts from metaphors demands creative thinking.  Contemporary theories have defined metaphors as a structuring of our cognitive system.  Metaphors are a way of equating signifier and signified into a new symbols, or at least making parallels between a symbolic construct and something completely new. In other words, metaphors affect the way we perceive the […]

Guiding Questions

As a qualitative research method and product, ethnography can be distinguished from three other ways of investigating and writing: quantitative research, public policy research, and journalism. The kinds of guiding questions which are addressed through these kinds of research are importantly different from those which can be addressed ethnographically. Quantitative research usually arrives at percentages […]

Choices, Choices: Limits of the Brain

“Choice” is the obsession of our time. Marketers (and frequently UI designers, business developers, chefs, salespeople, etc.) respond to focus groups and surveys calling for greater choice only to discover that adding the 350th variation of essentially the same product or service produces no bump in sales.  More variety should lead to more revenue.  After […]

Interviews vs Ethnography: A Case for Slowing Down

Ethnography is two things: (1) the fundamental research method of cultural anthropology, and (2) the written text produced to report ethnographic research results. Ethnography as method seeks to answer central anthropological questions concerning the ways of life of living human beings. Ethnographic questions generally concern the link between culture and behavior and/or how cultural processes […]

Hey Advertising, Get Out Of Your Damn Way

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.” Hunter S. Thompson wrote this, somewhat ironically, in a letter to the editor […]

Manage Brand Symbols as You Manage Supply Chains

Everyday consumers buy into the concept of brands and their associated meanings – the perception of quality, a symbolic relationship, a vicarious experience, or even a sense of identity. Brands, like the products they represent, are symbols – we don’t sell advocacy or attributes, we sell systems of meaning.  The extent to which consumers recognize, […]