Applied anthropologist example: Martha Bird and chatbots

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Let me introduce Martha Bird to you via this article in Computerworld. She has a PhD in anthropology and has worked in a range of industries including a non-profit, telco and in e-commerce. She helps match user needs across multiple markets to products and services for global brands. Right now she is a business anthropologist working on how chatbots need to function for customers of an HR product and service provider.

She says that in her role she “is always about thinking about the intersections of technologies and people or, put another way, about the human-machine relationships in cultural context“. As an anthropologist, she is building on work done to date around UX and customer journeys in the company and explains: “the user’s journey must also account for the cultural landscapes – organizational, culture, national culture, geography, tech infrastructure, gender – on which these journeys are mapped“. This is something that an anthropologist can offer.

One of the interesting things involved in her work is identifying “cultural precisions” where cultural differences need to be built into how chatbots function in order to meet user needs globally.

Full article here

What is triangulation in social research?

Triangulation in social research is a technique to increase credibility of research outcomes. Borrowed from navigational and land surveying techniques, it aims to overcome biases in single method, researchers, data sets and/or theories.

There are 4 types of triangulation:

  1. Methodological – two or more methods are used to collect data
  2. Data – two or more different data sets
  3. Researcher – two or more researchers investigate
  4. Theoretical – two or more theories approach the often described as a way of ensuring some form of ‘truth’ in research results. This is one reason to use triangulation, but another is to intentionally draw out some of the differences

As an anthropologist I think we constantly aim to reduce the influence of bias in research we do. A competent, self-aware anthropologist is very good at observing phenomena from multiple viewpoints. Of course we can’t always overcome our own biases,  so designing your research (and synthesis) with triangulation in mind can contribute to overall outcomes.

Courses in ethnographic and design research

EPIC have announced great new learning initiatives for its members. A series of courses and talks will be offered throughout the year in order to deliver on EPIC’s purpose to advance ethnography in industry. Some of the courses look to be taken from popular seminars from the 2016 conference. The only downside is the timezone issue if you happen to be based in incompatible timezones with the US, like Oz…

You can find out what courses and talks are offered here

What is anthropology?

Here’s a nice brief article on what anthropology is, why study it and what it offers the world in the Huffington Post.

In summary, anthropology has 4 main areas to the discipline: cultural, biological, linguistic and applied. Some of the reasons to the article highlights to study it: understanding the rules that govern what it means to be a member of a society, understanding difference across cultures, effectively negotiating workplaces with their particular norms and human diversity and ethical conduct.