Drew Cogbill | Thesis Blog

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Jan Chipchase talk

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Frog Design and IxDA hosted a Jan Chipchase talk tonight that I was lucky to attend (thanks yendo!). Chipchase is a design researcher for Nokia, and though he won’t claim the anthropologist title, he does spend lots of time for his job, and just in general, looking at how people structure their lives.  He spent quite a bit of the presentation talking about how to communicated collected design research to a (corporate) organization.  One of his suggestions for how to do the type of work you’d like within an organization was to allow the boundaries between your work and personal research blur.

Jan claimed these were the take away messages from the talk:

  • question everything (including the need to do design research)
  • participants are in control- His group is given time to spend with people, which comes with a responsibility to let participants shape the products.
  • what motivates the researchers- He returned often to this.  If the international researchers and local facilitators have a clear understanding of what the objectives of the research are (and what things are not to be researched), it will allow them to be the most effective in their work.
  • what are the boundaries- e.g. If doing data collection in a home, give data (pictures and video) to the participant on a USB drive. If the researchers know people will see the data collected, it will change how they will collect the data.

He also talked statistics.  With 6.6 billion people on earth and about half that amount of mobile subscriptions in the world, it is easy to see how design of mobile phones and applications for mobile phones have such an ability to impact the world.  He did mention that while it is difficult to design something cross platform for all the phones of the world, something designed using call back messages, SMS, or even voice, would have a huge potential market.

Additionally he spoke about projects (such as the Nokia Open Studios) and experiences from the field.  He showed a mobile phone application in Cairo telling the times for prayer and then asked us why such an application would be necessary in a society so completely governed by prayer times.  His answer was that the application was more about intention.  It could be a reminder to a person to do something they’ve decided to do, if it is kept private, or if it is displayed more publically it could show how a religious a person was.  Or even more, it could be a way to show that a person has a sophisticated mobile phone.

Jan also showed a picture of a legitimate electricity hookup and an illegal hookup to the electric system side-by-side on the same house.  The illegal hookup is culturally acceptable and can provide all of the needed power, so why pay an electricity bill as well?  The bill serves as an important form of identification.  Much in a same way, a mobile phone can be a connection to a bank account for people who would be traditionally too poor to interest banks.

The evening ended with Q and A.  Right before the applause, Jan returned to a question about his favorite or most inspirational moment during his travels. Talking about the transformative power of mobile connectivity Jan essentiatlly said: in a place where everyone is going after the newest, glitziest phone, it’s easy to foget how much a mobile connection can change a person’s life.

Written by drewcogbill

November 6th, 2008 at 1:24 am