Out of Context: most recent publication


Read Out of Context: Ethnographic Interviewing, Empathy, and Humanitarian Design :

Abstract:
User-centered and participatory design methods focus on the importance of understanding, and including, the end user in concept development. Current theories especially emphasize so-called “empathic design methods” and the necessity of designing for the “cultural context.” Current design theory therefore assumes that people have a static culture and a set value system. These methods are often difficult to apply when designing for vulnerable people: in this case in a refugee or post-disaster setting. When people are displaced and have gone through life-changing events, they have been uprooted and their individual and collective cultural identities interrupted. New motivations and cultures emerge, often together with an identity crisis. In addition, if designers wish to use empathic design methods for the challenging field of emergencies, we need to find ways of understanding the refugee; also when field access and traditional participatory methods prove difficult. In this article I explore the potential of the open-ended, ethnographic interview of resettled refugees in Norway, and how it may be an alternative that allows the designer to frame some of the characteristics of “the refugee identity.”

Keywords: empathic design; ethnographic interview; humanitarian design; identity; refugee anthropology; refugee camp; self-reliance

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About Brita Fladvad Nielsen

I'm a Postdoctoral researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. My focus is on Smart Energy Communities in urban settings as well as design of energy-devices for emergency settings and design for humanitarian markets, especially for refugee camps in rural areas of Africa. I blog about my research approach Design Thinking on www.designthinkingresearch.wordpress.com and about humanitarian design at www.designforselfreliance.wordpress.com . I am also a mother of a child who is deaf, and I blog about her language development on Aurorasittsprak.wordpress.com
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