Ethnographic Research

After reading through the material prior to starting this assignment, I thought about my topic, sledding, and the things I remember about the activity from when I was young, and what I like about it now. From here, I thought of a series of questions that I then asked a few (fairly random) people. The questions I asked were:
1. Where do you typically go sledding? Why? 2. Do you prefer to go sledding with a group, or with fewer people? Why? 3. What do you enjoy most about sledding? 4. If you could change one thing about sledding (anything!) what would it be and why? 5. Explain your best experience sledding. 6. Explain your worst experience sledding.

For my first Interview, I talked with someone from a previous class I had taken, who thoroughly enjoys sports and more random activities. The interview went like this:


1) Behind a car or bike. It's fast, and adds another fun component to the sport.
2) A group, more opportunity for good times. Anyone drinking and sledding is pretty badass but it's probably more fun with a group. You can race, which adds a gaming aspect to it!
3) The flexibility with it, there aren't any rules. You can make up some rules if you and your friends want to, but you don't have to!
4) Make it a battle to the bottom, with weapons and sticks. More fun, and you are more determined to go faster.
5) Drinking and sledding- makes it way more fun. You are less scared to go fast and more competitive with your friends, although brakes on your sled are always a plus. You want to be able to stop when you want to stop, and steer when you're sledding by trees and other people (especially families).
6) Drinking and sledding- I was going too fast, didn't have brakes or a steering wheel, so I had to jump off.. But the sled wasn't very reliable when it came to staying on a track or being able to predict where it was going to go, so I hit a tree when I jumped off and the sled hit another one.

Interview Two: An acquaintance from Michigan, a Junior at Michigan State University.

1.) My yard, because there is a dope hill that's super steep. I like to go fast and know that I'm not going to hit anything, or that if I'm going to hit something its going to be something like a snow bank.
2.)a group because I like being around big groups of people, and it's more fun! Plus, there is more likely going to be someone there to carry your sled up the hill.
3.)being with people and having a good time. It can be a social event, not necessarily about just sledding but racing, going fast, and laughing at all the stupid things that tend to happen.
4.) I would change the fact that it must be during winter. I want to be able to sled (or something like it) all year long! Like the alpine slide at Lutsen, but without the tracks. Or something where you can make your own tracks in the grass or sand or something.
5.) my best experience sledding was green acres when i was in 9th grade. we went in a huge group and kept screwing up the toe rope. It was also a better experience because it was tubing, it seems like the material of tubes makes you go way faster and they're more comfortable to ride, but not as easy to control, so you usually end up falling off and sliding down the hill without a sled or tube at all. It also seemed like the snow was more packed down, more like ice. That made it more fun too.
6.) my worst experience sledding was when I went off a jump and hit my lip super hard when I landed. It's hurt like a bitch.. Not to mention the material of the sled was hard so it hurt to hit as well as sit on while going down the hill and over bumps.

And Interview Three: An acquaintance from High School who now lives in Duluth and attends UMD.

1. . We live in the country with hills and trees- our driveway growing up was super steep so it was really fun to ride down, but the bottom of it went right into the road and none of our sleds had breaks. They all went super fast but you had to trust that you weren't going to encounter a car when you got to the bottom. The other hill we had went through the woods so you had to steer through the trees using your body weight and leaning side to side. It was really fun with the challenge of having to dodge things on your way down, but if your legs were locked in front of you and you hit a tree on your way down it REALLY hurt. 2. A group because it's more fun! 3. Going over bumps and jumps. It s just hard to find a sled that is durable enough for it! It seemed like all of our sleds were uncomfortable and rigid, and cracked or broke when we used them too roughly (but aren't sleds supposed to be used roughly?!) 4. Sledding in the summer!!!! It would be so cool to be able to sled any time you want, a multiple terrain sled. Not like water skiing. 5. Its fun to sled with younger kids because they get a whole different experience than when you're older. But I also like sledding now friends. We have a couple cocktails and sled without any kids sometimes, and it's a whole different type of fun! Another best experience I had while sledding was when some friends and I got together to have relay races on sleds. We would race down the hill, chug a beer, run back up, and the next person would go! It was super fun, except for the part where you have to carry your sled back up the hill. 6. Worst experience is when I had to poop in the woods.... We were sledding and weren't close to the house or anywhere with a bathroom. I was super young and was wearing a snow suit, and it wasn't easy to take on and off... You can guess the rest!

For this part of the assignment, I realized it's not really late enough in the season to actually observe the action, considering we have no snow! So, instead, I went on amazon and researched the different types of sleds on the market, and read through the reviews for the five most seemingly innovative and different sleds, and picked out the things that seemed to stick out the most in the reviews.

Sled one: Zipfly Sled
Sled One.jpg

People thought it had an interesting design, and some thought it was a successful one. However, most of the reviews covered things more like the fact that the design makes the sled hard to steer, especially for smaller children, and there are only two tracks on the bottom of the sled, making the sled hard to move, and fairly slow. The design also makes it difficult to carry back up the hill and travel with.

Sled two:Saucer Sled
sled 2.jpg

This one is made of a thick resin that allows it to go fast, but makes it fairly heavy and hard to carry. The circular design makes it rotate while you're sledding, which is fun until you realize that you have absolutely no control over where you're going.

Sled three:Lucky Bums
sled 3.jpg

This one, most people said, was really not safe. It is top heavy which makes it hard for children to use, because they often fall out of the sled. A positive thing they said was that it was easy to steer.

Sled four: Flexible Flyer PT Blaster
Sled 4.jpg

The people who loved this one LOVED it, and the other reviews relayed that they hated it. The positive reviewers said that it was good for hitting jumps and bumps, the design of the sled helped to absorb the impact from landing. It is also durable enough for 200+ pounds, and easy to steer. The other reviewers said it was a cheap quality that only lasted the first use before either the steering wheel or brakes broke. They also said it was extremely hard to assemble due to the very rigid materials.

Sled five: Pelican Sizzler

sled 5.jpg

The reviewers said the tow rope made it easier to use when it came to carrying it up the hill, something the parents much appreciated. The handles allow the rider to steer, but not very well, and the handlebars that serve as brakes look like handles to hold while not going down the hill, so you brake when you don't want to (Design flaw!). They also reviewed that it fills with snow, and doesn't go down the hill very smoothly (if at all). This was for sure the least favored design of all the sleds that I studied.

Because of our lack of snow and it being so early in the season, I was unable to partake in the activity of sledding, so I decided to pull from past experiences. When I was younger, my siblings and I would sled down the hill in front of my dad's house in Afton. There were trees everywhere, but we were good at carving out pathways through the trees, and we always ended up in the snowbanks in the ditch close to the road. With a hill that steep, it was necessary to have some kind of buffer at the end of the hill. I always wanted to go second or third, because I remember the first person to go (we had the typical plastic sleds with a tow rope and just about no other features) had to struggle to create a path, resulting in a slow, uneventful ride down the hill. The second and third riders got to ride in the track, going faster each time. I remember always wanting my brother to pull me up the hill in the sled (it never happened!) but it would have been possible considering there was a rope on the sled. It made it easier for us to haul things around when we weren't using the sleds for sledding.

next steps!
I noticed a pattern in people wanting the sleds to be universal in age, so kids could use it safely but adults could also use it a little more roughly. Also, I noticed that people want to go as fast as possible and have the option to steer and brake as needed. I think the next step I need to take is decide on a target market for the sled, or if I'm going to try to marked to everyone (kids and adults). From there, I can decide on the most important latent needs, and see where that takes me!



I greatly enjoyed your blog post. It was very interesting to read about drinking and sledding. I also agree with your second interviewee about sledding during warmer seasons. My favorite part of your blog post was your research on Amazon. It was cool seeing the pictures of the very different sled designs.

I would have liked to see you include pictures of your interviewees. By taking a little time to introduce your interviewees, you will allow your readers to better understand the consumer perspectives you investigated.

Though you gathered a lot of information, you should have included your problem statements in a finalized form. Write those out, and you’ll be on the right track!


I think you did a great job interviewing people. You got a lot of stories from each of them which is fun to read but also very useful. I also like how you researched different sled designs although to me it feels a bit like you're making a solution before identifying the problem, who knows maybe rolling downhill in a giant hamster ball is the way to go.

I would've liked to have seen more background on each interviewee like age etc. And you still need to to write out your problem statements!

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by kollm027 published on November 11, 2013 3:23 AM.

Mind Map / Inventions was the previous entry in this blog.

Brainstorming! is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.