Bridging the Qual/Quant Divide

Concern with “big data” have dominated conversations in the past few years. What does “big data” really means? What constitutes “big” versus “small” data? How does “big data” lead to real insights? The promise of data hasn’t played out as planned and we are starting to see a rethinking of how it should be used. […]

Moderating vs. Learning

Let me state that I am not a moderator. At least, not a traditional one. I am an ethnographer, an anthropologist, and a strategist. And while both moderators and ethnographers speak to people, they are not the same thing. This isn’t just a matter of semantic difference, it is at the heart of how practitioners execute their […]

Finding Balance: Data, FIeldwork, and Creativity

There is perhaps nothing new about the ongoing battle between data and qualitative work, and the influence they have on creativity and design. Data is everything, creativity is dead vs. the argument that creativity is paramount and data is a distraction. Neither position is true, though there is some truth in each argument. The goal […]

Context and the Changing Mobile Landscape

Marketers increasingly think about consumers in complex ways. It is understood that in a changing digital landscape, the context in which they learn and shop influences what messages we deliver and how we deliver them.  But we rarely define “context”. It is one thing to design a usable app that conforms to human factors and […]

Getting Past the Hawthorn Effect

In 1924, the National Research Council sent two engineers to supervise a series of industrial experiments at a large telephone-parts factory called the Hawthorne Plant near Chicago. The idea was that they would learn how shop-floor lighting affected workers’ productivity. Instead, the studies ended up giving their name to the “Hawthorne effect”, the notion that […]

Taking to the Field: Client Collaboration

Perhaps naively, many ethnographers assumed that we would work in a vacuum when they learned their trade. We’d go into the field – people’s homes, workplaces, and leisure areas – and then report to clients what we learned. However, we soon realize that some clients take us literally when we state ethnography will bring them […]

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 […]

Reminders When Recording Fieldwork

Capturing everything in the field can be a daunting task. But there are some basic tips that will help make the process smoother: Write notes as soon as possible to avoid information being lost. Capture major themes and broad ideas within 24 hours and share  them with your team. Write down all personal details about […]

Taking Your Clients With You.

Perhaps naively, many ethnographers assumed that we would work in a vacuum when they learned their trade. We’d go into the field – people’s homes, workplaces, and leisure areas – and then report to clients what we learned. However, we soon realize that some clients take us literally when we state ethnography will bring them […]