Ethnographic Research


The goal of this assignment is to find opportunities, needs, latent needs, problems, or areas for improvement/change. I will be focusing on the sub-theme of family gatherings. To do this I will be doing some ethnographic research to better understand the users and the market. I conducted research using three different approaches: asking, observing, and experiencing.

ASKING: I interviewed three people about family gatherings and collected their thoughts below. I tried a few different interviewing styles: having the individual tell me a story, intentionally using silence to force interaction, and asking only variations of "why".

Interview 1: Mackenzie- Coffee Enthusiast and "Family Gathering Planner"

  • Moderate sized extended family

  • Really close

  • Get together at least once a year

  • Loves holidays because she gets to see everyone

  • Her mom used to organize many of the larger family events and she started helping at a very young age

  • She enjoys the challenge of keeping a variety of ages and types of people active and happy when together

  • Her best memories for family gatherings relate to family trips

  • Big challenge choosing a location that will please everyone

  • Always have someone who doesn't feel involved

  • Because they didn't have any input into the location/activities

  • Because it is difficult to manage multiple people's preferences for activities

Interview 2: Jake - Book Worm and Timid Holiday Traveler

  • Smaller extended family

  • Often see entire extended family for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas

  • Travel to single location like Grandparent's house

  • Because it is a centralized location

  • Because his family is spread around the Mid-West

  • Likes getting to see family

  • Really dislikes the traveling aspect of the holidays

  • Can't stand stop and go traffic

  • Because there is always construction on the highways

  • And because no one prepares for the route delays

  • Hates being cramped into a small car with his family

  • Because he's tall and is always stuck in the back seat

  • And he can't move

  • And he doesn't get to decide when and where he gets to stop

  • *silence*

  • Jake won the silent competition at this point and the interview may have gotten a little sidetracked.

Interview 3: Aspen - Lonely College Student

  • Moderate sized extended family

  • Not extremely close

  • Normally spend time with immediate family for holidays

  • Has never attended a family gathering outside of parents and one sibling

  • Doesn't understand why anyone would want to spend time with a very large group of people (sensing a little bit of sarcasm in voice)

  • Never really had an opportunity to meet many of her extended family

  • Because they live on the other side of the country

  • Because half of her family moved out there during the 80's

  • Not really sure why

  • Does feel bad because she knows that she should know more about her family

  • (I feel like I stirred up something that I might not be able to solve)

  • Might try to start a family gathering

  • Doesn't know where to start

My family gets a little crazy whenever we are together. Somehow something always breaks or goes hilariously wrong, kind of like a comedy.This is what I think about every time my family plans big family gatherings.


Mackenzie needs a way to poll family members' wants and needs because it is difficult to plan gatherings that are pleasing to every attendant.

Jake needs a way to travel to his grandparent's house because he is constantly encountering construction and delays.

Aspen needs a way to break the ice with extended family because she has never met many of them and would like to bring everyone together.


Hi Simpkins,
It was interesting to note that you explored different interviewing styles. How did it turn out? as expected or unexpected?

While bulleting the main points from the interview is easy to read, I do miss out the fun and joy while reading it out as a story. Usually ethnographic data is described in story telling format as it gives the real essence of peoples; experiences.

For the observe/experience part, were you able to recollect any major things consistent with what the 3 interviewees told you? If so, are there any opportunities you may think of or problem areas?

Your first problem statement is the best of all the three and I agree that it is a herculean task. I will closely follow up with your research, brainstorming sessions to see what you were able to come up with.

Jakes problem is very general and not sure if you can really come up with any solution ideas.

-- Shiv


I enjoyed reading your findings in the area of family gatherings very much. I have a large family and we do not get together often, but I always find it a fun experience when we do.

I realize that simply posting pictures of the people you interviewed may be a little awkward for them, but there are other ways of using visual aids that could have been employed to enhance the appeal of this entry. the video at the end is great, and I can relate with the chaos of having a large family get together, but some supplementary visuals are in order for the future.

I found your problem statements the strongest portion of your entry. statements one and three had just the right amount of play to allow for suggestions, but not be too bogged down with restrictions. The second seems a bit too vague to go anywhere with, not having any more input. However it is a problem that we would all love to have solved!


First off, I liked that you tried several different interview styles. I think you could have written about them in a more clear manner, however. I found some of the bullets confusing and was unclear which interview tactic was used with each person initially.

I found your problem statements to be strong but you might want to consider making them slightly more "broad." For example, in one statement you say she needs a way to poll family members, I think this is getting too close to a solution and could be re-worded to say she needs a way please all the attendants because it's hard to tell everyone's needs.


I appreciated the way you chose to layout your blog in simple terms correlating to the assignment guidelines. However, there was too much about the assignment and what we were told in class and not many personal insights.
-Try to document the way you approached the assignment with less detail about the bare bones structure.
- Discuss maybe how you went about finding people for the interviews. Perhaps what is your experience with family gatherings? I know you mentioned this in your observe section, but it felt broad.
-Maybe discuss your best and worst holiday memories and what made it that way.
-For your bullet points, make them more succinct. Don't start a new bullet point with "because..."
-For overall layout, maybe use a few more visuals

Problem Statements: Mackenzie needs a little rewording particularly in the first part instead of saying "needs a way to poll family members" that is almost a solution.

Jake doesn't just need a way, but a "better" way or a "quicker" or whatever word that will define it better.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by simpk024 published on November 11, 2013 10:37 PM.

Mind Mapping and Silly Ideas 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.