design ethnographer
(duh.ZYN eth.naw.gruh.fur) n. A social scientist who works for a technology company and studies user environments to suggest product improvements.
design ethnography n.
design-ethnographic adj.

Example Citations:
Intel researchers are conducting a study into how people interact with technology.

Dr Genevieve Bell, senior researcher and design ethnographer at Intel, said: "Our job is to find new uses for technology by spending time with people in their daily lives. It's not good enough to just keep producing technology with no notion of whether it's going to be useful to consumers."

Part of her work has involved riding around London on a number 73 bus, watching people use their mobile phones and handheld computers.
—"How do you use yours?," Electronics Times, December 10, 2001

The way we as designers can use design ethnography in practice is by doing 'participant observation'. Conventional research has long had a problem with the fact that often people can't say what it is they are doing, and just as often don't do what they say they do. In the world of work, for instance, 'exceptional' ways of doing something often turn out to be the rule. The official story turns out to be a convenient fiction. Better insight can be gained through first hand, non- judgmental observation of the intended users.
—"Mass observation gets an individual treatment," Design Week, March 6, 2003

Earliest Citation:
Some of the insights Intel gleaned from its Portland home study were fairly predictable: No one has any free time any more. Families need help coordinating activities and communicating. Activity is centered in the kitchen and family room and the "information hub" is the refrigerator.

From these findings, Riley and her team questioned how the PC might fit into this environment. They borrowed an idea from a decidedly low-tech product — the fridge notepad — and began thinking about ways to translate it into a high-tech, microprocessor-based computing/communications device. They envisioned an electronic flat-panel note pad hanging on the fridge that would allow family members to leave notes, make lists, schedule meetings and generally stay in touch. They speculated about connectivity between the fridge pad and other household appliances and with Mom and Dad's PC in the office.

"We took it to the Intel engineering community and used it as a vehicle to talk about possibilities." says Tony Salvador, a design ethnographer and member of Riley's team.
—Bruce Rayner, "Now hear this; high-technology companies' use of design ethnography research," Electronic Business Today, August, 1997

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