EPIC 2008 morning day 2, on video

During the EPIC conference I attended several presentations on using video in the field. Jonathan Bean, an architect, did research on ‘hygge’ in Danish homes. Hygge is something beyond cosy and comfortable, untranslatable in English but similar to ‘gezellig’ in Dutch I understand after the presentation. He involved his participants during home visits in documenting their home. The way he kicked off that collaboration is quite nice: he literally put a photocamera, a video camera, a sketch book, and an audio recorder on the table and asked them to pick one to auto-document their tour around the house. He would then take another tool himself. This obviously helped people to feel comfortable and really part of the exercise, feeling in control of it even, which greatly helped to elicit stories.

Meg Cramer, of Intel, presented a paper about using video to study the use of a student laptop in classrooms, to inform its second version. Stories have to be short is the main thing that came out of using video for many years at Intel. It is not part of engineers’ jobs to watch jobs. So even downloading from the server is not fast enough. Video needs to be either in emails or should stream from the server. Performance turns out to be a good tool as well. For instance engineers wanted to see instances of kids in school dropping their laptops to explore how rugged they need to be. ‘A 30cm drop’ just was to technical to describe possible impacts. In all the video the team had taken only one badly visible instance of dropping a laptop had been recorded so they decided to stage with kids a range of possible ways to drop a laptop in the classroom. That proved to be much more useful for the engineers, and more efficient for recording too: easy and fast to do, and good video quality because you can decide on the angle beforehand.


The last presentation, by  and  from th Mads Clausen Institute in Danmark talk about performance too. They use performance to experiment with rapid prototypes, often just sketches on paper, stuck on foam shapes. they ask people to use these in their work processes and imagine that they would work, thinking aloud about how they would use it and what it would do. Essentially this is speculation, and it works because people are in their own work context and very knowledgeable about what works and does not work in the processes they have to perform every day. They are able to suspend their disbelief. The acting out seem to be a very good method to find new ideas for devices and services.


The last presentation, a classic anthropological study on the culture of two Danish companies, resulting in 5 essays totalling 75 pages. She preferred the essays above photos and video because the essays are more constructed and reflect on reality rather than just showing it. Meaning is best created by the reader she thinks, so she does not want to do powerpoints with bulletpoints and conclusions.Her best quote: “Things are generally much more vibrant and meaningful, when they are open for interpretation.” However hard it may be to get this accepted by clients, because they simply do not take the time to read so much and then also reflect on it, I recognise the value of the idea. I used it too in my design documentaries, where I step away from the naked reality of video by creating a film that includes reflection, expressed through for instance montage.

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