Thursday, October 15, 2009

Beta testing our ethnographic App

A few weeks ago I was sitting by the school pool watching my twins learning to swim. Next to me sat a dad whose line of work was IT. We talked gadgets, toys and cars before I finally ventured to test his boredom threshold with a full description of our new iPhone App.

I explained that it would allow as-live collaboration for field anthropologists/ethnographers, tagged video, still, audio and text capture, co-discoveries and more. All on an iPhone. He sat transfixed, much to my pleasant surprise, before saying:

"So let me get this straight, your App will enable people like me whose private information, habits, purchases, etc. are of such huge value to large companies to capture and sell my habits and behaviours?"

It was my turn to sit transfixed.

"Wow!" he exhaled, "that's awesome."

"Well, that's not quite what I had in mind for it but I suppose people could download it to their devices (not just iPhone) and use it to sell private information on demand. But I didn't develope it for that..."

My friend was not interested in ethnography. He had seen something completely different in this App. And I wonder, if it ever takes off, whether it will be thanks to anthropologists, ethnographers and sociologists.

I would be grateful for any comments on the above clip.


  1. Congratulations!
    Are you thinking to make it in spanish to? It would be very nice.

  2. Hi Siamack,
    What a useful application.

    I don't yet have an IPhone, so I am unfamiliar with the technical details of how well the phone can handle the amount of data collected whilst running such an app. If I did have an IPhone I would be interested in seeing a computer program that works with the app to upload/store/analyse the data as you go.

    On the format of the IPhone, coming from a design background, I would also miss not being able to sketch. The speed with which one can type on the IPhone is also a little frustrating. But, overall I think the potential of the app outweigh these issues.

    As the efficiencies of this technology are still relatively new, and still non-existent in some research fields, it would be interesting to see whether using this multi-tool app might make people more insecure of the type of data that you are collecting. Having a tool that can take photos, voice record, and email efficiently lessens the amount of time that the subject can have a say in what information they do/don't want you to record?

    I wouldn't think that information sent via the 'pimp your own info' option would be very reliable, unless you're after the selective info that people want known about themselves. No doubt it would be interesting anyway.


  3. Looks great i agree spanish would be great. And syncing with your computer similar to itunes with your music and videos would be realy good for backing up your notes and managing them.

  4. This is fantastic - my whole objective in research (as one who came from creative, not research!) is to make the process of participating in it fun, collaborative, and creative - and this fits in perfectly! I was forwarded the Research Magazine article about this today because last night I asked our engineers if we could capture geo-tagging information when people upload images to the blogging platform we use for so much of our work... I think I'll rather wait for the app!

  5. Siamack,

    Exciting stuff and neat idea. The app sounds useful in theory, would like to try it in practice. Let me know if you need any beta testers or when the app goes live, would like to try it out on a service design research project taking place in Nov/Dec 09 around London.
    We met briefly at EPIC08, not sure if you remember.


  6. Hi, promising app for ethnographers and the like. When are you planning to release it on App Store? Best, Sergio, from Santiago, Chile

  7. Dear Sergio - we are about a month away from launch on the App store. And a few weeks later we will launch the web interface. I will post updates on this blog...

  8. Thanks Stamack for the answer. I hear that you are going to build a similar app for blackberry. is it true? Best and hope to buy your app asap and use it a lot. Sergio

  9. Ah, one last think. Try to build an update that add more languages to the user interface (spanish, for example)- a multilanguage app in the first upgrade. Thanks, Sergio

  10. Stamack, check out this link:

    Read the comments, I think your app resolves some of the issues of the idea behind fieldcrew.

    I really like to see your app on Blackberry, because I think is more discrete than the iPhone.

    Best, Sergio, Santiago, Chile