Posts Tagged ‘observing’


Creating a Point of View (step 3)

November 28, 2008

When we want to decide on a positive change in our lives..  we look at what we have, what we are missing and somehow figure out a way to solve the missing piece.

When we want to change a system, we have to look at what the system has (from the specific lens we are focusing on), what it is missing and figure out a way to bring back the missing.

One way of understanding systems is by using principles of ethnography.


When we try to understand a point of view that is different from us, we go to the person’s (or subject) natural environment. There we are able to look, listen and ask questions… taking notes of all details. In explaining interaction design, Preece, Rogers and Sharp gives an understanding of what user-centered approaches may feel like. Ethnography in this sense can help with some tools and approaches. ٍSome examples of user-centered approaches are: Coherence (questions that guides towards issues of systems development), Contextual Design (gathering data and presenting practical design), and PICTIVE and CARD methods (participatory design techniques that empower users to take an active part in design decisions). There are millions of ways to do things.. the trick is to find one way that fits both the issue at hand and the styles of those who are tackling it. David Hurst, in talking about the challenges of organizational change, pointed out that in order to change the structure of something, you need to change the dynamics that supports it. Same thing goes to bigger innovations that involves a complex connections of systems and their dynamics.

When we go about finding data… we often misunderstand the task by looking only for facts and figures. If we really want to understand different points of views we need to dig deeper. we need to understand the emotions and the real reasons that make people (or system) do the things the way they do.  It helps to have more than one ethnographer studying the issue because we often note some salient features that are sometimes only visible to us (because of our background, experience and attached emotions). Design thinking is built on multidisciplinary teams where each one brings his/her own salient features of the issue, in which allows a better picture of all point of views.

In researching the issue of design thinking, in her studies, Helene Cahen attempted to answer the question that many of us will start wondering very soon: what are we observing??

** Behavior. for one. We want to see the rituals, roles, activities, play and diversions that people undertake when they mix with the issue we are studing.

** Meaning: what do those symbols, signs, beliefs, gestures, values, attitudes and opinion mean? what is the language used? (both practically and figuratively).

**Tools: space, technology, rules, techniques are only limited examples of what tools maybe. what is being used for communication? for progress? for play?

Observing and understanding others Points of View is something that requires some practice. The untrained eye will watch and connect what it sees with readily available patterns in the head. We are built that way and that’s the easiest way to understand our surroundings. But with practice, we can start looking at things in a new interesting (sometimes unusual) ways. Looking at things as if we don’t understand what’s going on and we’re trying to figure out this new piece of information.

Kids do it all the time. because of their limited background information, they treat all new information with an open mind and an interest to try things. The rules of the world (and us adults) stand in their way of this discovery by telling them what it is (very narrowly), warning them from danger, or asking them to do what we say.

that said, it takes time and much energy to allow ourselves to wander freely when we create many points of views, that may or may not, be in accordance of our own.


Happy wandering.