An ethnographic study on social networking and how to connect people offline :
UIC + MOTOROLA (CXD) 2007-2008
INTERDISCIPLINARY PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
This project was funded by Motorola’s Customer Experience Design (CXD). The goal for this research project was to understand the underlying motivations for users of social networking websites and find out what problems people generally encounter and develop solutions to revolutionize the way users interact through social media.
Throughout this 6 months long longitudinal study, I collected primary data on social networking using a variety of methods such as Virtual Ethnography, Focus Groups, and interviews. I also performed Concept Testing on initial product concepts. Through secondary research, it became increasingly apparent how the Internet had changed the way people interact with one another and share information. People are using technology and media to not just share information, but also to solidify their social presence on the web. Probing several focus groups, I was able to uncover basic virtual to face to face social networking difficulties and inefficiencies.
The fundamental concerns and problems users had with meeting new people, included difficulty meeting people you click with, the need to share something in common before you can spark conversation with a stranger and discomfort approaching new people. Many of the respondents said they enjoy going to public events or spaces to be around people, but ironically usually only interact with the small circle of friends they attend with. In fact, there are stigmas against introducing oneself to strangers, even at social venues such as bars and clubs.
The results of this research lead to recommendations and initial design concepts for a device that allows people with common interests to easily interact, and also to encourage users to interact within existing social communities or venues of their choice such as conferences, hotels, bars, clubs, universities and to create a device that gives people a reason to introduce themselves to people they don’t know.