Thanks to my anthropology studies and the ethnographic research I did both in Italy and abroad in the last 10 years, I developed a personal and syncretic method, in order to collect hyper-qualitative data. It is based on the concrete observation of the interactions among objects, people, places, and lifestyles.
This method comes from the ensemble of the theory knowledge I assimilated at university, with my creativity and technic skills. My aim is to realise individual surveys that would generate effective results, based reality observation, smart use of technology, and involvement of the subjects.
It is in the daily individual acting that the deepest roots of my survey method can be found: observing, participating in and examining experiences and interactions in the reality, where they take place every day. Ethnographic methods like mine feature this theoretical union of “watching and touching”, whose academic name is “participant observation”.
When a client asks me a question, after finding where the concerning action takes place, I immerse in that reality. My involvement is a vocation and it is controlled. Even if I do not always take part actively in the experience, I am there and I participate in what is happening. Be there. Watch, speak, listen: make question and have unexpected answers. This is the point.
During a survey I observe what happens in person, from the inside of the situation. I use many tools, such as journals and logs, templates, maps, lines, photo and video cameras, GPS. The data I collect depict the research subjects’ perspective. Such subjects can either be the protagonists of a routine, or those who use a product or a service.
Making a long story short, I would say that an anthropologist does with a society/community/group of people, what a psychoanalyst does with a person. They study the reasons of someone’s opinions, choices, behaviours and instincts, from such person’s point of you. Then they make theat reasons aware, explicit, evident, and, in some way, useful. However, anthropologists do not call the subjects of their research in a room to find such reasons.
They do not make them sit in their office to listen while they talk about a memory. They do not invite them to their lab to observe them trying to act as they normally do in real life. Anthropologists immerse in people’s everyday life. They observe, listen, and participate in real situations. They try to get rid of the distance between the observer and the observed.
They get involved in people’s situation to understand them. They have to adapt the case to the ethnographic research tools with creativity and new technologies, observing people in their everyday life and how the interactions naturally happen. Anthropologists have the possibility to find out the reasons of human acts: the perceptions and needs that lead to opinions, choices, and behaviours.
— Steve Jobs @ Business Week (1998)
Let’s talk about the participant observation: when the ethnographic research tools are combined with creativity and technology they mixed research practices and create new kind of insights, able to meet the needs of companies and public administrations. This method is very popular and durable, even though not everywhery it is so common (e.g. in Italy).
The success of these deconstructed ethnographic methods is coeval with the most innovative and competitive market of the 21st century: the portable devices technology industry. In fact, the worth of these products is based on the experience and interactions among objects, people and their life-styles.
— Michael Quinn Patton @ Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods (2002)
Here below I describe three cases in which the ethnographic techniques used by an anthropologist stand out thanks to their effectiveness and uncontested usefulness.
The ameliorative research focuses on the ineffective or unsuitable solutions. We use them to improve existing products or services, to go beyond an interruption in the development phase, to make the communication strategy more effective, or to identify and bridge the gaps in the marketing plan.
These surveys need quite a big number of samples on which to realize focused observations, in order to collect a wide range of comparable hyper-qualitative data. The comparison between interpretative categories and concepts appearing in different contests, becomes the first tool to identify where we can find the greatest improvement and development.
The exploratory research focuses on the unknown and unspoken needs. These surveys are necessary to invent innovative products and services, to revolutionise objects, places, and life-styles, to create new communication strategies, to find new targets and the ways to hit them.
We carefully analyse a limited sample. Such type of survey allows you to get to know in a short time details that you would only get to know through innovative and concrete intuitions, based on people’s experiences and real perceptions.
The feasibility research focuses on the procedures and solutions that are chosen to realise a project. They are extremely accurate tests, and they are conducted using a deconstructive methodology. They are essential to verify the compatibility of a project in the real world, before it is created, to consider the effects of an innovation on a specific target, and to optimise the project and the realisation strategies.
The sample is as big as the accuracy in the analysis, in order to get a suitable number of hyper-qualitative data that would be comparable with each other. The investment of the client is organised to get a simultaneous growth of sample and observations number, in order to have the possibility to test as many situations as possible.
Methods and results of a hyper-qualitative survey are different from the statistic approximations of the quantitative surveys and from the results you could get through other qualitative methods. The active presence of a qualified observer makes the difference: you would get accurate data and original intuitions.
My first task is the task of the ethnologists immersing in the research contests, is to observe and understand what happens in the every-day life, looking beyond the answers that people could give. Then they have to analyse the collected data and translate the experience in information and data visualisations that can be considered useful by the client.
My second task is the task of the anthropologists, who rationally examine what they see and hear: finding the reasons of the observed behaviours (actions, reactions, instincts, choices, perceptions, and needs). Then they have to translate this information in useful intuitions, and tools that could guide a choice.
The aim of my method is to make the researcher work together with the subject, to identify the tiny discrepancies between what the latter says and how he actually acts in an every-day life experience.
For every action, there is
an equal and opposite reaction.
The path that takes to the best result is long and full of choices and options, but the hyper-qualitative surveys could be a great help to find the right way.
Sometimes the idea itself makes the difference,
sometimes the way you realise it does.
The research types are based on the discovery of new ideas, on their development, and on the examination and optimisation of the realisation process. Such surveys could become in a short time an essential tool for those who have the responsibility and task to identify the best strategy ever. One of the actualizations of this last principle is the accurate and innovative research in the presentation of the results.
I think that even the most important
discoveries would be vane,
if they were not correctly presented.
My academic studies gave me the tools to build and conduct a research. My personal passions gave me the competence to find the best way to present the results of my researches. This is my methodology and my will. The first concrete example is the creation of this website, from its structure, to contents, pictures and code.
The GIF is an artwork by Yasutoki Kariya: Asobi, 2012