Friday, June 1, 2012

Consistency and auto ethnography

Years ago - was it 2004? - we had an online platform called 'Immersion Tank'. There was no mobile component. Respondents had to film their own events and send them in. We then had to transfer their tapes from NTSC to PAL because 90% of our projects were US based (which cost a fortune) before editing out the sections we wanted to upload to the client's viewing area.

I recall one project being all about male grooming products. One of our entries was from a wife taking numerous shots of her husband choosing a razor and shaving cream/gel from the POS. Each photo was beautifully taken and even more beautifully annotated. Another entry was from a man buying products for himself in CVS. It was terrible quality video which shook all over the place. He didn't care. He was doing the basic minimum, he believed, to get paid.

A couple of things occurred to me/us. First of all, pictures were much easier and more enjoyable to look at than video. You could actually study them at length and to great depths without getting the kind of head ache you would get trying to do the same with a sequence of video. I found this extremely disappointing given that Immersion Tank's USP was video.

The second challenge was that quality of filming ranged from semi-pro to 'I don't even care if the lens hasn't focussed yet'...

In the end we had to kill Immersion Tank because we were spending even more time and money than our usual ethnographic research converting taps and editing them.

These days, our EthOS platform has allowed us to improve consistency in the quality of entries enormously. And the way we have achieved this is using 'benchmark' films to give respondents an idea of what we are expecting. In addition, we have have made a film giving useful tips on how to use a smartphone to capture different media effectively. You can watch it here or above.

Before I sign off, you might be interested in this observation about video vs. photo.


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