Ethnography has become an integral part of the UX and design research process, as product and branding teams seek deep and holistic understandings of consumers’ lifestyles as a way to develop meaningful, culturally relevant solutions. These days, just about every design consultancy offers some form of ethnography in their toolkit, and most corporate-side research teams have incorporated it into their process. In this talk, LiAnne tells the story of how an academic anthropologist quickly embraced and thrived in the role of UX researcher. But now, after 17 years of working in the field, she’s rediscovering many of the unexpected and quirky strengths of ethnography that she thought she had to leave behind in order to fit into the corporate research world. This talk is about a personal journey back to one’s roots. But it is also about how — in the quest to define and fix ethnography as part of our UX “process” — we may be missing out on the most powerful and delightful aspects of it.
If you find LiAnne snooping in your closet or peeking through your front window, don’t worry — she’s just working. LiAnne’s third grade teacher explained that anthropologists get to travel, poke their noses into everything, and listen to grannies gossip on the front porch, which inspired her to earn a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego.
She may not listen to grannies gossiping all day (aside from that time she researched Chinese senior citizens hanging out at Ikea), but LiAnne does use her anthropology superpowers in many ways. As a consumer experience strategist, she designs ethnographic immersions for corporate clients. This work has taken her from the seedy underworld of Snapchat-obsessed teens to fishermen living on the Louisiana bayou.
LiAnne explores the diversity of human culture through a wide range of interests. She’s the author of Consumption in China, published byPolity Press, and China — The Emerging Consumer Power, published by Routledge. She writes about clean energy initiatives and Startup Paradise for Hawaii Business Magazine and indulges her fantasy of being a travel writer with AFAR. LiAnne also hosts Out Of My Own Bubble, a podcast about a blue state girl’s adventures in deep red communities — the result of LiAnne using her anthropological training to understand the outcome of the recent US election.
Stay tuned for details of LiAnne’s session at Fluxible.