Ypulse Interview: Dr. Genevieve Bell, Intel
- May 4th, 2010
- 1 Comments
This year we are thrilled to have Intel Fellow Dr. Genevieve Bell as our Spotlight Keynote speaker at the Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup. Raised in South Africa and now based in Portland, Oregon, Dr. Bell has traveled the world over with a team of anthropologists, interaction designers and human factors engineers to study the global differences of how people of all ages interact with technology.
This morning I caught up with Dr. Bell on the phone to ask a few questions about her work and what Mashup attendees can expect to take away. For Ypulse Readers who want do the same, take a look below and register today to catch Genevieve Bell in person later this month!
Ypulse: Could you describe your job for Ypulse readers? What does the day to day involve?
Genevieve Bell: [As the Director of the User Experience Group within Intel Corporation’s Digital Home Group] I am heavily involved in thinking about the future of TV and thinking about making the products related to the future of TV. We’re doing it with a very clear understanding of what people want to do and how people use technology to do what they want to do.
My day to day either involves going to a lot of meetings at the office, or being in people’s houses and talking about what they care about most.
YP: Traveling the world, what are a couple of the discoveries you’ve made about the role technology plays for youth in different cultures? What are some the similarities you’ve found?
GB: One of the challenges when you work in the tech industry is that you get seduced into thinking everyone is the same. Part of my job is thinking about the ways that everyone is different. I’ve spent time in places where kids were sending up to 300-500 text messages a day and I’ve spent time with people who have looked at me said “Eh, I prefer football or watching television.”
Generalizing is dangerous because it doesn’t consider the experience of the individual. Whether it’s a kid going to a gaming arcade because the parents don’t like having friends over to their home, or kids that get tracked [via GPS-based monitors] and feel more loved because of it…
YP: Can you attach some of those observations to specific cultures?
GB: Sure. In Korea it has become really common in the last 10 years for parents to track kids using cell phones, and when you talk to these kids they feel sorry for those that aren’t tracked because they think it means their parents don’t care enough to make that gesture. It just completely inverts the paradigm of surveillance and the helicopter parent [that we have in America.]
In China, you see young people flocking to massive video arcades with as many as 500 games.
In Italy, the coolest thing to do was turning off your phone and seeing how long you could keep it off because if you were cool enough, people would find you and know where you were…
In Indonesia, you see youth using Facebook to organize political rallies versus their social lives.
YP: How do those findings apply to the design of devices aimed towards young people?
GB: I think there are key lessons that apply across age, gender and culture. It has to be robust and have an elegance and ease to it. It has to be straightforward. There isn’t any pleasure when the thing is difficult to figure out.
Technology that is successful supports people as part of a social system. You have to think of people as social beings.
Another thing you need to think about is that technology is not about being more efficient. I think if you look at the most successful technologies in the world (television, Facebook) they aren’t time-savers. People care less about saving time and more about connecting to the things and people that they care about.
YP: What emerging trends do you think we’ll see in the next few years?
GB: I think there are some interesting tensions emerging between devices that all work together and watching how people manage their profiles and their buddy lists and their various favorites. People are continuing to work out what information to share with whom. I also think when you have the possibility of being connected in different places at all times, people also start to wonder about the value of being disconnected.
In general, I’m much more interested in the types of experiences people are having with these devices, [than the actual devices themselves.]
YP: Can you tell us a little about your upcoming book Telling Techno-Cultural Tales from MIT Press. What can readers expect to learn?
GB: The book is about the future of computing, and more specifically the future of research into the future of computing.
You’ll learn [when it comes to technology] that you have to pay attention to culture, to people’s experiences and to the physicality of the real world. Because it’s one thing to imagine a device in a vacuum, it’s another thing for that technology to go home and fit into people’s living rooms, and handbags and pockets. We develop these legacy technologies and tend to forget that people have other stuff, and people have things in their life that they aren’t really ready to give up for a new device. The reality that it will have to live with other devices is a difficult concept for some to wrap their heads around.
YP: How will convergence play into all this?
GB: Convergence is a story like when people talk about a cashless society. It will partially happen and it partially won’t happen. Because ultimately push comes to shove and there are just some things you’ll want to go to a separate device for. For instance, you might be able to type up a university paper on an iPad but you’ll be happier doing it on a traditional laptop.
A device that does it all doesn’t account for the fact that whole sets of our identity are kept separate and you don’t necessarily want all those existing in the same space. It’s more important to think about what experiences fit together, not what devices fit together.
YP: What can Mashup attendees expect to take away from your keynote?
GB: One thing is that the future is going to be simultaneously similar and different from the present and just an interesting place to go and do robust stuff. Technology will change idea about citizenship, civic responsibility, participation in community, family, sociality and more.
Even the world now looks really different, particularly in the technology landscape than in the past. In 1998, 70% of internet users were U.S. based, in 2008 less than 20% were. And that’s the tip of an iceberg of a much larger transformation of the digital world. That’s really interesting stuff and the implications for that are really interesting, too.
More on Genevieve
Born and raised in Australia, today Dr. Genevieve Bell is the Director of the User Experience Group within Intel Corporation’s Digital Home Group in Portland, Oregon. She is the driving force behind Intel’s emerging consumer centered focus. Gathering a team of anthropologists, interaction designers and human factors engineers to transform consumer-centric product innovation, she has fundamentally changed how Intel envisions, plans and develops its platforms. Her team is responsible for setting research directions, conducting global comparative qualitative and quantitative research, leading new product strategy and definition and championing consumer-centric innovation and thinking in Intel’s Consumer Electronics business and across all of Intel’s platforms. Dr. Bell has a PhD in anthropology from Stanford University and a new book forthcoming from MIT Press. She was recently recognized by Fast Company magazine as one of the 100 most innovative people in business.