Date: February 6, 2008
Brenda Laurel — California College of the Arts

Those of us who use ethnographic research as part of our design practice are often plagued by criticism from our colleagues in the social sciences as well as those in the design field itself. Anthropologists lift an eyebrow at our seemingly cavalier use of their qualitative methods. Hard-boiled business types snort at our lack of quantitative data. Design students ask, “if we do research with people, does that mean they get to tell us what to do?” And the Great Designers of our time claim that the whole notion of human-centered research is utterly beside the point. This talk looks at a design process that utilizes ethnographic methods as tools for informing and inspiring innovation, and answers all those mean people besides.

About the Speaker
Brenda Laurel is a designer, researcher and writer. Her work focuses on interactive narrative, human-computer interaction, and cultural aspects of technology. She currently serves as chair of the new Graduate Program in Design at California College of the Arts. Her career in human-computer interaction spans over twenty-five years. She holds an M.F.A. and Ph.D. in theatre from the Ohio State University. Brenda was one of the founding members of the research staff at Interval Research Corporation in Palo Alto, California, where she coordinated research activities exploring gender and technology. She was also one of the founders and VP of Design of a spinoff company from Interval–Purple Moon–formed to market products based on this research. She served as Chair and graduate faculty member of the graduate Media Design Program at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and also worked as a Senior Director and Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems Labs in Menlo Park, California.