Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Understanding The Significance of Jargon: Steve Portigal's Latest Interactions Article

There are few people out there offering the insight in the field of User Experience Design at the level of Steve Portigal. His latest article, "Poets, Priests, and Politicians" has been published in the Association for Computing Machinery's Interactions Magazine. Here is a tasty morsel from it:

A few years ago, I took a client into the field to study how families were using home entertainment technology. We met one family in which the father was visibly proud of his provider role, especially regarding technology. On multiple occasions he mispronounced TiVo, the up-and-coming digital video recorder brand, as “tie-vo.” Without looking, I could feel my client (an engineer) wince every time the father did this. But being a good interviewer, I reflected back the language our respondent was using, and in my follow-up questions, I also referred to “tie-vo.” When my client asked the family a question later in the session, he was physically unable to use the “wrong” pronunciation, and referred to TiVo as “tee-vo.” At that moment, the dynamic in the room shifted critically. The family leader had been shown up by some visitors, and suddenly we were the experts, not him. The interview wasn’t ruined, but after that we were sorely limited in how far we could go. Even the mere pronunciation of a word impacted the interaction.

This is a great example of Steve's ability to get customers into a comfortable storytelling mode. I recommend not only reading the rest of this article, but if you ever need an ethnographic consultant to provide valuable findings from your customers that lead to innovation, his firm will hit a home run every time.

This and his previous articles written for the ACM are available online. Here are links to them:

Here is a link to his blog, All This Chittah Chattah: http://www.portigal.com/blog/


Steve Portigal said...

Thanks for the kind words, Michael. This latest article has got a good reaction and I'm very pleased by that. I also enjoyed your collage. One might think that I'm selling innovative Smart Cars complete with a lovely instruction manual (btw, I'm not).

Michael Grossman said...

Clearly I'd buy one if you were though.