Tag Archives: interview

Tiny ethnography over morning coffee

Picking up coffee in Boulder Creek on my way to work this morning, I noticed an unusual photograph of a mountain lion stalking a white rabbit.

The proprietor of the cafe noticed me taking a picture of his picture, and made a little “come here” motion with his finger. He walked me into his office, and showed me a whole wall of photographs of various wild animals – coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions – stalking this ceramic rabbit. It seems this scenario is something he’s set up in order to take pictures of wildlife.

People often find it very gratifying when you take a genuine interest in them. It’s quite common after design research interviews for the interviewee to thank us profusely and say that they really enjoyed the experience. It’s a great kind of exchange – both sides benefit materially and on a deeper level.

The landscape and the technoscape

We’ve been renting our Airstream trailer on airbnb, and had some unusual guests last week. Alex and Luke, two Canadian travelers also known as alexandluke.com, stayed with us on the 151st night of an extended journey around North America.

What’s unusual about Alex’ and Luke’s trip is that they are using social networking platforms to determine their whole itinerary.

Without a route or any preconceived idea of what we will see and do, we are calling on the communities behind the most popular social media websites to act as our compass (pointing us where to go) and our guidebook (telling us what to see).

Luke says that, for him, the technoscape rather than the landscape was the real inducement to hit the road, and their trip is as much an exploration of the borders between online and offline worlds as the geography of North America. An ecotone is the transition area between two adjacent ecological communities, and by pairing the intensive use of social media with the highly physical and interpersonal nature of travel, Luke and Alex are really probing the unique possibilities of the space where digital and physical meet.

We sat down underneath the redwoods and recorded a 30-minute conversation about what it feels like to have your destination determined by the Twittersphere, how they decide what to share and what to keep private, what social networking tools they wish they had but don’t (Twitter analytics and more fluid map sharing via IM, etc.), and how this unusual experience is changing them.

You can listen to some audio excerpts from the interview here.