POST 5: Approaches to design for change, design-led ethnography

My interview focused on understanding people’s knowledge of, and responses to online privacy. In both interviews I began by asking my respondents what steps they took to protect their privacy. This simple question highlighted the dichotomy of online privacy; with one user saying they took a number of steps and the other saying they took none. Interestingly the respondent who did nothing simply stated that it was not worth the effort, as they felt their personal data would be collected no matter what. Following on from this, I also asked both interviewees about their opinion of data collection. In this instance both respondents stated that they had never really considered the implications of ubiquitous data collection, with both indicating they were against it in principal but were yet to have any negative experiences with it. The idea that people are generally unaware about their privacy and the information they contribute to digital systems is something I explored further in my probe.

Visitor and resident mapping provides a framework to analyse the myriad of ways that people engage with technology. Unlike other models, V&R mapping does not seek to label people with fundamental identities. Instead, it aims to identify the modes of behaviour and the motivations behind our use of technology (White & Lanclos 2015). To show this, participants are required to plot their online activity on a two dimensional axis. The y-axis provides a space to illustrate the distinctions between public and private activities, while the x-axis proves a space for participants to reflect on the visibility of their actions (White & Lanclos 2015).  Visibility is measured on a scale from resident to visitor. A resident is someone who maintains an active profile within an online platform by creating content and contributing to the discussion. A visitor is someone with little visibility within the platform they are using (University of Hull 2015). Visitors see the web as a tool, and thus only engage with it when a need arises.

Post 5, image 1
One of the V&R maps returned from my probe

Above is an example of an annotated visitor and resident map. In this instance the author has adhered to the common practice of situating social media platforms towards the resident side of the axis. Interestingly, the respondent has placed Twitter closer to the visitor end of the spectrum, annotating that they use it to follow the activity of others, but rarely engage in the conversation themselves. Likewise, YouTube is placed at the visitor end of the scale, with the author stating they watch content, but do not create their own or comment on others. Resident platforms like these are able to occupy a variety of locations due to the differing modes of engagement and motivations of their users. The discrepancies between intended and actual use was something I was interested in, and was able to gather information on using the V&R framework. V&R mapping was useful in this instance as it provided a rigid enough structure to return comparable results, while also allowing for enough freedom to uncover interesting insights. With that being said, it would have been good to get more respondents to complete the activity. Having a larger collection of datasets would allow for better comparisons of the ways that people interact with technology.

  • People are generally either highly aware, or ignorant of how much data is collected about them by digital systems.
  • Most people are unaware of what their personal information is used for.
  • It is hard for even the most careful individuals to avoid having their data collected online.
  • The majority of people do not understand the commercial value of their personal information.
  • Seemingly meaningless data can be quickly and easily assembled to form a detailed picture of an individual.

Reference list

University of Hull 2015, Mapping your own digital world, viewed 24 August 2016, <>.

White, D. & Lanclos, D. 2015, Visitors and residents mapping workshop, viewed 24 August 2016, <>.


%d bloggers like this: