Ethnographic Persona: Section 4

In this final section of this paper, I will present my own ideas how to exploit the richness of ethnographical methodology for the benefit of useful and used information applications.

A true enhancement of persona through ethnography
I described several state of the art techniques of information architects to create an usable and useful information systems. The common practice is to combine different methods to minimize the downsides of a single approach. Nevertheless, I also mentioned in section 2 that two aspects are neglected and that these could be addressed by applying ethnography: avoiding mixing personal cultural background and the system’s environment as well as neglecting the user’s language.

I suggest enhancing the persona technique by ethnographic information to have a more complete image of the setting available. This “ethnographic persona” would include

  • typical quotations and native terms as well as
  • a taxonomy of native terms, which describe the processes and activities in native language.

This type of persona considers the cultural and lingual background of our persona(s). It would help to understand our persona deeper in terms of their cultural understanding and view of their world much better. Information architects and designers could derive ideas to create a proper navigation concept, content and functionalities based on the native language / jargon / slang.

This type of persona is a true improvement to the old concept, which based on identifying personas, tracking them and testing IA-techniques as try & error procedure. This asks for a high amount of data to be analyzed.

In this sense, I would argue like Spradley (1979) who says that the ethnographic description is a translation, but must lead the reader from the native concepts and meanings to the particular cultural scene, not to the concepts developed by the ethnographer. Along these lines, information architects should use these personas to translate them into a native information architecture.

The downside of this method is the needful time effort (as general in ethnography). Consequently, such a method is only interesting for project with a budget and time for a (several) month(s)-long ethnographic project.

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