Post 5: Private Matters

Words by Colette Duong

Documentation of my findings using ethnographic practices including semi-structured interviews and design probes. Throughout two weeks, I have undergone primary research to develop my comprehension of audience perception on the issue.

Semi-structured Interview

The process of a semi-structured interview allowed me to casually engage with my interviewee in a conversation; much like one I would share with a friend if I was discussing a topical issue. My five questions were designed to be simple and broad, prompting the exchange to flow with casual opinions and personal experiences. It allowed me to exchange my perspective whilst extending my knowledge of other stances on the issue, and perhaps even challenging them.

With assistance from my group, the questions I prepared for the interview included:

  1. How much of yourself do you put online?
  2. Do you usually think of privacy before you post something?
  3. Have you made an illegal download recently?
  4. How much do you care about your own privacy?
  5. How would you define privacy (or does it exist anymore)?

I conducted a fifteen-minute interview with two participants on the 16th of August 2016. Both shared provoking insights in the discussion. Much of my views were similar to both interviewees in terms of the social climate of online privacy. Each offered interesting points.

First Interview

  • My interviewee talked about their “out-of-character” change in online behaviour from recently being on vacation—where the need to share felt constant. Interestingly, when asked if their Instagram account was public or private, they changed their settings to private because they “didn’t like people following [them]”, only previously being on public because their friends were bugging to see their travel pictures.
  • Discussing online illegal behaviour: “No one wants to spend money on stuff you can get for free.”
  • When the question of defining privacy was asked, they weren’t sure how to answer. They said that they were going to think about that for the rest of the day.

Second Interview

  • “Information is power and privacy is being in control of that power.”
  • When discussing the act of illegal torrenting, they said that “it’s not illegal in our minds since they already have a lot of money…most of the movies are not worth paying for anyway”.
  • They mentioned that they avoided using location settings and would typically find their route using Google Maps from home instead of on-the-go with their mobile.

Reflecting on the interview, I felt like I should’ve asked more ‘why’ questions, such as “Why do you care about your privacy?” It was a helpful method to gauge different types of attitudes and precautions that people took to protect their online presence. Much of which were aligned with being educated on the fact that they were being constantly under surveillance. However, interviewing individuals with a similar age and career demographic didn’t offer many extremely different perceptions to the issue.


Original probe concept featuring a film camera (Colette Duong 2016)

Initially I had the idea of contextualising privacy in the physical and tangible realm. Often I find that the lines of privacy become distorted online, hence, I was persuaded to theme my probe around the concept of redefining privacy and what it might currently look like. I wanted to use a film camera to mimic the act of secrecy, something instant, and allowing my participant to ‘trust’ me with their private matters.


  • a private space in a public environment
  • a private object
  • your personal space
  • an intimate moment
  • a public space
  • an object of surveillance
  • anything you find private or explores privacy

Unfortunately, the film camera I purchased was faulty, so my activity essentially failed. Instead, I thought it was easier to give them two simple tasks of recording:

  • Screenshots of when a service asks to approve the activation of location settings
  • Screenshots of when a service asks to approve terms and conditions

My participant sent me screenshots as instructed however my findings were definitely not as successful as I thought. Reflecting on this ethnographic approach, I feel like my probe would’ve possessed extra depth with further planning.