Monday, May 4, 2009

Harmful Things Considered....

Commented on:
Kevin Kwan
Jared Wright
Brad Twitty
Nicholas Harris
J. Chris Elgin
Brian Salato
Devin Mckaskle
John Zachary
Patrick Clay

1. Ethnography
In the paper "Ethnography is considered Harmful", various reasons are brought up against the usage of Ethnography. While the positives of ethnography and its importance was discussed in class, this paper discusses the change in its usage nowadays and its negative effects. I thought the paper presented some decent opinions on how ethnographies are used today. The author introduces some of the new methods of ethnography and presents arguments that it does not adequately perform the work it was originally intended. For example, the method that studies the place where people work does not "...reveal the 'lived work'." The authors also talk about the affect that new ethnography has on designs. The concerns they raised seem legit in their own view, such as understanding a different aspect of the world that influences design. (i.e. social and cultural aspects) Overall, it seems that they regard the new methods as not covering enough or missing some critical points that are related to design. in that case, I feel that it would be appropriate to add certain traits to the methods to improve their coverage area. By including the areas of concern, ethnography would no longer be harmful for design, as they would also include a broader area.

2.Usability Evaluation
One of the most important factors of design we've studied this semester was usability evaluation. we've read our shares of books that emphasize on its importance as well as people who has taken advantage of it and succeeded. however, in this paper, arguments are presented against it and how its "harmful". While they do not deny the value of usability studies, the authors suggest that not all development situations should be subjected under such an evaluation. Personally, I think usability evaluation is a great method for designers and engineers to gauge their product and its effectiveness. Still, the potential misses that the paper said are possible is worth thinking about. The paper contemplated on the missed opportunities that the usability studies could cause for some products when they are tested prematurely. It can't be denied that usability evaluations are useful, but perhaps it'd be best if they aren't taken in the same context as they are now. They should still perform them, but also evaluate the results a little more carefully and considered the possibilities and not let everything be dictated by the outcomes.

3.Human-Centered Designs
Don Norman! And i thought I was done with him after the last book, but alas, the class has brought us together again. In this paper, Don Norman talks about the dominance of human-centered designs, and its harmful effects on design overall. Norman offers an alternative, Activity-Centered design, and reasons why. After reading through this paper, I must say that his suggest method have some merits to them. He presents some examples such as writing tools and music instruments and how their designed for their specific activity and people were able to adapt to them and still perform great feats. While that may be true for certain things, I think that the rule is not universal. For some activities, people are willing to make the effort to adapt for whatever satisfaction or reward they gain. In some activities that are trivial, users would not be motivated to adapt for it.Norman argues that while HCD has its benefits, it also some some heavy weighing drawbacks. One of which is that a certain group of users might tend to make changes that benefit them only and not really involve other people. Overall, I thought it was an interesting read, but once again, I would evaluate its usage on a case by case basis. While its true that HCD does indeed have some things it needs to address, it is not necessarily deficient for certain objects while ACD also has its advantages for some things.


  1. i don't know why the ethnography paper has been given such a bad rep. It is reasonable to ask that people take other methods into consideration before diving in with design decisions.

  2. and i probably should've included this in the first comment but oh well.. the usability paper is accurate in that some good innovative technologies would've failed a usability test. i agree that there should be other methods to judge worthiness of a product.

  3. Ethnographies should remain a piece of the puzzle but i think that in order for the users to get the most out of the product a variety of methods should be used.