Genevieve Bell: Anthropology meets technology

Published: 2 June 2011 y., Thursday

The first question anyone asks when they meet me is: "What does a corporate anthropologist do?"

I joined Intel, the US semiconductor giant, 12 years ago, at a time when the technology industry was experiencing the first wave of what we now call consumerisation. By that, I mean PCs were moving from being a tool for the office into the home and becoming part of people's personal lives.

At that time, the question among tech companies was, could you get out ahead of that shift.So Intel hired me and a number of other people like me to help it better understand human beings.

Over the years, the team has grown to include people of a variety of different stripes: anthropologists, sociologists, cognitive psychologists, industrial designers, interaction designers and human factors engineers.

And our role is educational - explaining to a technology company what happens after Moore's Law, in which technology gets progressively smaller, faster and cheaper.

But the job is mainly to help the people who design our products to better understand those who will use them. That involves getting out into the office, into the field, and into people's homes to ask questions about where technology empowers them, where it frustrates them and to learn about the diversity of experiences they are having with technology around the world.

One of my early projects tested the assumption that early adopters of technology in urban Asia would behave the same as in America or western Europe. And of course we found that they are very different.

Back in 1998 when I started at Intel, computing was all about the PC. Flash forward 12 years and we are in a world where computing smarts are embedded in all sorts of things - and the interesting question is, what's next?

One place where we expect to see a lot more computing technology in the next few years is in cars.We've been in Singapore, Malaysia, China and Australia asking people to let us turn out the contents of their cars: front to back, glove compartment, doors, in between the seats, under the seats, boot (trunk) and everything. In a sense people there were using their cars to keep them socially safe, not just physically safe”

We want to get a better understanding of the role that content plays in their lives and where computing technology might intersect with that.

Šaltinis: BBC
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