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BlogAwkward Silences
  • Last Updated:

November 24, 2020

Everything in Context: Anthropology and User Research with Vanessa Whatley of Google

Anthropology is all about studying the context and cultures in which people make decisions. Here’s what user researchers can learn from it.

Carrie Boyd

User research and anthropology have more in common that you may realize. Both involve studying the way people interact with their surroundings and make critical decisions, though anthropologists focus on the cultures and societies that shape behavior. This week on Awkward Silences, Erin and JH chatted with Vanessa Whatley—a Senior UX Researcher at Google—about what researchers can learn from anthropology. 

Vanessa talked about…

  • How anthropology can teach user researchers to look more closely at the context of participants’ decisions and behaviors
  • The benefits of a diverse research team, 
  • And how she puts insights into perspective for stakeholders.


[4:58] Anthropology is about looking at the differences we may not notice in our own familiar environments, which is also an important mindset for researchers to adopt.

[7:14] It's easier to see bias with lots of practice and by starting in your analysis. It's something that you grow in as you grow in experience and exposure to other researchers.

[10:28] Vanessa illustrates how race and experience may color how different researchers think about a situation.

[19:13] Having a team of diverse researchers that reflects the population you're studying is incredibly important because we're all human and can miss important context or cues.

[26:07] How Vanessa puts things in context with contextual inquiries and video clips.

[32:15] Everything is by design, so when something bad happens, we need to look to the systems to see why.

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About our Guest

Vanessa Whatley is a Senior UX Researcher at Google. Her background in Anthropology has inspired her to think about ways in which companies can prioritize user/customer needs when building products and executing business strategy. She seeks to promote humanistic/people based solutions to the challenges that institutions and individuals face. 


Erin: [00:00:42] hello everybody. And welcome back to awkward silences. Today we're here with Vanessa Watley, a UX researcher at Google. Today we're going to talk about anthropology, which I'm really excited about. Many of you listening might have backgrounds in anthropology or might, do UX research work built on some of the methods and premises of anthropology.

So we're going to dig into anthropology and how it can provide more context, perspectives, on empathy on really understanding users then, might be available without using some of those methods and techniques. So, yeah, anthropology and user research. That's what we're talking about today, and we're very happy to have you here today, Vanessa, to talk about it.

Vanessa: [00:01:29] Thank you for having me. I'm excited.

Erin: [00:01:31] We've also got J H here.

JH: [00:01:33] Yeah, this feels like a super interesting one to dig into a different sort of angle from our usual fare. I'm excited about it.

Erin: [00:01:38] So Vanessa, why are you equipped to talk about anthropology? What is your relationship to anthropology?

Vanessa: [00:01:48] Yeah, that is a great question. I do not have a PhD in anthropology, but stumbled upon it actually during my undergraduate years. So I started out thinking really heavily about psychology as well as business and kind of in the process ended up taking an anthropology course, fell in love with it, switched my major to that. And I have just found that to be really useful as a framework, as a way of just thinking about the world.

Um, both in my professional and in my personal life. So 

Erin: [00:02:26] okay, so, so dumb question. What is anthropology?

Vanessa: [00:02:31] Great question. Actually, I remember when I used to go on interviews, people would ask me if that was dinosaurs. So,

Erin: [00:02:40] Right, right. Yeah.

Vanessa: [00:02:46] archeology, I guess, falls under anthropology, but I'm really anthropology like the study of people and of cultures. And so it makes it really relevant for UX research and just thinking about how to understand people and societies and how that kind of forms and comes together.

Erin: [00:03:06] Contrast that with like say psychology, which is another field. We see a lot in UX research, you know, both studying people, but anthropology, more how people exist in groups is that fair.

Vanessa: [00:03:21] Yeah, I would say that I think, anthropology really is more relational and I think it can also, like I said, include things like archeology, where you can then. Think about artifacts or just physical ways that people interact with her environment. Whereas I think psychology is a little bit more internally focused and thinking what happens to people and how they process their worldview.

JH: [00:03:51] On the dinosaur front, you mentioned there is something about the word anthropology. When I hear it, that makes me think about like it's studying those relations and people. Like from a long time ago, but I think, I assume that's wrong, right? Like you can, anthropology can be applied to any modern day situation instead of relationships and stuff like that.

Is that fair?

Vanessa: [00:04:08] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of times we do think back to either very foreign or older cultures and investigating those, but it can be definitely applied in a very modern sense as well. And just understanding what is going on in dynamics between people.

Erin: [00:04:27] and it's like this idea of, Let's study these groups that are very far away because obviously we know ourselves in the modern day really well, but do we, you know, and that's some of what I think you want to talk about, right. Is how can we use anthropology and related concepts to take some of the UX research that's happening, a level deeper to make it a little smarter, a little more meaningful, right?

Vanessa: [00:04:57] Yeah, that's correct. I think for me on a personal level, an example that comes up in anthropology. and as I was studying it more formally was this notion of being able to see the world, which sounds really crazy. Right. Cause we can all see and understand our experiences.

But, historically a lot of anthropologists did go into these foreign cultures because it's very easy to detect and to pick up on differences. That's how we're wired as humans is things that feel very familiar, fly under the radar. So if I had sent you home and said, you know, I want you to come back tomorrow with a 10 page paper on what happened at dinner.

You might point, you know, you know, the food that you had or the conversations that you had, but things that would fly under the radar is that you set up a table or that you used a fork and a knife. And, if you go into a different culture, that is where you then might notice, Oh, people don't use the utensils here, or they sit on mats or on the ground because it's foreign to you.

And so. I think, with research that's so relevant because really everything is through a lens and everything can be biased. and it's really biased through our own worldview of what we pay attention to and what we normalize or leave out of the conversation. And so I think, Striving to take that out as impossible.

We're always gonna have that worldview that's been shaped by our own experiences, but being aware of it can be extremely helpful and can help us be more intentional about the things that we call out versus the things we choose to eliminate.

JH: [00:06:44] when you're taking those skill sets and applying them to a familiar situation, and there's these kind of like hidden differences that we overlook or. Are not naturally inclined to see what are the ways that you can like increase the contrast so that those things are easier to pick up on, without having to contrast them against, you know, a very different example.

Like, so if you are talking to your group of users and maybe on the surface, they seem homogeneous or whatever, like how are the ways that you like become more too to picking up on those differences that are maybe easy to overlook?

Vanessa: [00:07:13] Yeah, that is such a great question. And I think I still struggle with that to this day, because I don't know how. Possible or easy it is to do that in real time. I think an analysis, it, you can be much more intentional with it because then you can go back and you can try to start with a framework or just try to question things.

Thematically where you might look at a specific theme that came through and then try to contextualize it and say, okay, is this typical of someone in this region or, is that typical to my own experience? Or could there be a set of users out there that are having a different experience, even though this theme is so prevalent across the people that we talk to?

So I think, yeah, that's a great question. I don't know. I have a great. Answered to, in the moment I think with, with moderation, it's such a skill and something that I'm still constantly trying to work on, but I think sometimes what I notice with researchers that are very, I guess, skilled or, have done it for a long time is they naturally tend to probe into things that.

Might have more hidden or deeper meaning behind them. And so in order to really understand how to get it better at that, I think some of it is also just exposure to different ideas, to different cultures. and then getting another researcher's perspective and just continuing to work in craft that I don't think it's something that unfortunately we can.

Say there's one tool out there or one, one way to just get better at it overnight. it's something I could continue to work on.

Erin: [00:09:07] It feels like, because I'm thinking about where, you know, where I think this is true in a lot of fields where there's a lot to be said for, you know, being. I'm open to experiences and, you know, taking a minute from work to watch a movie or read a book and that can, you know, just makes you a better person and have fresh ideas and creativity and so on.

And I'm thinking about as you, you know, whether it's through travel, which no one's doing right now, but travel or reading or whatever it is to try to broaden your horizons as you're doing that. that's obviously a really good thing and can open. You're your mind to other cultures into the fact that there are these differences you might not have thought of otherwise, but on the other hand, it seems like the more you get familiar with like your own context, things become invisible.

So I guess what I'm trying to ask is there. Is there a beginner's advantage, right? As far as, I've never seen these things before, and therefore I noticed them where there's almost a benefit to knowing less. Do you know what I'm saying? I'm like, do you fool yourself into thinking, you know, more than you do as you start to dabble into, being familiar with other cultures and lose some of that benefit of the novelty of those differences?

Vanessa: [00:10:28] Yeah, that is a great question. And I think that's another place where it's so relevant to drawback, to anthropology where, You're encouraged to think about the point of view that you're taking on. So the emic versus that point of view, whether you're thinking about things from the person, the spective of the subject that you're studying versus from the outside or from the observer's point of view and.

Yeah, I think that's exactly what you were alluding to is which one is better. And I think the answer is that neither one is better or worse per se, but I think it's really powerful to understand what the pros and cons are of each because, historically anthropology has also been a very problematic field and the common phrase.

Armchair anthropology, you know, where if you think that as an observer or as the researcher, you're the authority figure and you get to interpret things from your lens and that can often be very problematic. Whereas, if you're too deep in it, you might not even be able to articulate it or think to articulate it to your audience.

So I think it's that delicate balance again, of like, thinking about how are you, your stakeholders currently thinking about the topic, are there points of views that you might be missing then? I guess, yeah, it'd be a good point too, to bring in an example of something that I personally, I definitely have some experience with and I think.

Might be a good way to highlight how researchers may interpret the city. Same scenario. very differently.

JH: [00:12:16] Yeah, let's do it. 

Vanessa: [00:12:19] Thinking about, if we were to go into a campus, a college campus setting. When we decided to conduct a study with, undergraduates and we want to just under understand their experience, being a college student, and let's say we just line up a handful of people and we followed them for around three hours and ask them questions throughout that timeframe and just gather that understanding and, The researcher joins the student and driving to campus.

And along the way, let's say the student is a 19 year old, black male. And along the way, a police officer stops the student and ask them to pull over because. You know, they might not have stopped, had a hard stop at a stoplight, or they might have failed to signal during a turn. And so I think depending on the perspective of the researcher, They might have very different emotional reactions to what is happening and then why it's happening.

And then let's say as that moment occurs, the police officer asks for license and registration and the student hands over their student ID in that moment. I think there's a lot of interpretation that can happen. And some may just interpret that as the student either is young or naive, or didn't realize that they're being asked for their driver's license. Some researchers might ask about that moment. and others might see it as a mistake or almost as ignorance. They might even go back to the office and, you know, laugh about why would they think that they want to see a college ID? I'm a researcher that probes might then learn that was actually strategic that young black college students often use that technique because it signals to the police officer that they.

Are maybe different from what their stereotypes or expectations are and that they are a productive member to society. And that, even though they knew that's not what they were asking for, they pretend that is what they thought was being asked in order to. Disarm the police officer and then show them their actual license and registration.

And so I think small moments like that can highlight what people are attuned to or not. and, I don't know. So it wouldn't necessarily be anyone's fault if that moment flew under the radar, but how do we start being able to capture those. Moments and, um, kind of that context in that backdrop where if you've experienced it, you might be much more able to understand what happened in that moment.

Erin: [00:15:29] To your earlier point about how some of the best, most experienced moderators and researchers will probe. Right. And. There's like the five, why or the why trees example, but you know, really ultimately asking why or getting at why. how might somebody who wouldn't think to notice the student ID as being of interest, you know, get there.

Is it simply just asking why more often a pretty good tactic, for example, or might you waste time on things that actually aren't interesting at all. you know, and waste valuable time with your participant by going sort of down empty paths, you know, how do you find those things that are interesting when they aren't obvious to you?


Vanessa: [00:16:24] Yeah, I think that's another great point. And I don't know if I have an excellentanswer because yeah. When you encounter that moment, I mean, What if it was like in a different context, and that was actually an honest mistake. Do you want to probe on every mistake, like that could also make someone uncomfortable and it's like, well, why did you pull out that card?

Not the other card. And they're like, well, it was an accident. Sorry that, you know, you don't want to create like a confrontational moment. and so I think, yeah, that balance is very delicate. Because I think that like a scenario like that could play out in so many different ways, right. Where maybe the researcher senses some discomfort and they decide to change the subject or decide to say that was a moment that should've never happened, or just ask like, Oh, are you going to make it to class on time now?

And what is the right way to handle that moment? So I think. There are no straightforward ways to have a framework. How does it going to be, I guess, will or always work, but I want to say just being attuned to body language and, probing and trying to, I guess, even leave space for that. I think sometimes the.

We write our discussion guides in a way where we want everything and anything in those, I don't know, 30 minutes or in that one an hour time session, and then said, maybe leaving a little bit more space that we can explore, alternative paths instead of trying to collect, our ideal data set and then pushing past those moments that could be really interesting or valuable for us to know about.

JH: [00:18:20] Yeah, it is. It's a really interesting example because your point about like, why this matters, it's like, there's this awareness of understanding somebody else's point of view and experience. And if you miss moments like that, it's a real gap in your understanding and your awareness of what somebody else is experiencing.

And it, it does sort of feel like it's just, it's almost like this judgment thing. Like you need to be able to like to your point, pick up on all these signals and have a sense of, Oh, there might be something here. So I'm going to leave some space or I'm going to poke on it a little bit. Or, you know, this seems a little bit more benign and you know, we're driving around or walking around campus.

Lots of things are happening. I can't pick on everyone. It's like that just seems like such a hard skillset. It seems really important, but it seems, it seems like a very, just very challenging. I mean, it'd be cool to like, watch a very skilled practitioner do it. You know what I mean? So you could see it firsthand because I feel like that would be a very eyeopening experience almost.

Vanessa: [00:19:13] It's going to be impossible to be skilled in every population and every domain. and that's actually something I've given some thought to as well as, what are the benefits of having two researchers or two moderators or. People that can balance out those viewpoints so that you might have both perspectives.

And you're able to talk about that moment. Cause again, if the objective of that, kind of case study was to understand the college experience, if in your report you mentioned that incident, but your takeaway was that they were late to class. what does that mean in terms of, I guess, how we're interpreting those moments and then, can thinking about, or being mindful of who you're sending in field, be another way to mitigate bias and just have a more comprehensive lens.

So I personally have been a huge advocate for making sure that. researchers really reflect, more of a populations that we want to study. Not because it's impossible for a skilled researcher to go into a new context, but because we're all human. Different populations are going to feel differently about being vulnerable, about opening up about relating.

And there are some things that will just be missed. And so if we have a team that can flex in various different areas where one might be more skilled, When it comes to, different languages and another person might be more skilled when it comes to understanding cultural backgrounds or, when designing for accessibility.

I think having that being reflected in your research team can also be a really great way to make sure that we're handling the sensitivity of the participants. Well,

 Erin: [00:21:55] Well, that's that balance between the IMEC and the etic that you mentioned as well, where one isn't necessarily better than the other, but, and you wouldn't necessarily say, okay, well, we have. You know, a diverse population of researchers that is more representative of the, you know, the audience that we're seeking to learn about or to serve.

It doesn't necessarily mean you have to like, match like with like, right. Cause people are complex to your point, but to have that availability, and to be able to balance the benefits of both is important. You know, we talk about in tech a lot, like dog fooding, right? Like using your own product or at least in software, we do.

And then at the same time we talk about you are not the user, right? So on the one hand, we need to have empathy for the user by being on the user. And on the other hand, you absolutely are not the user. So I don't know. I guess to me, it's, that's an interesting sort of contradiction at play here as well when we seek to, to be empathetic people.

Vanessa: [00:22:57] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Anything that just is such a strong reflection of. What we do as researchers is that people are infinitely complicated and complex and difficult to read an emotional and driven by emotion emotions rather than rational thoughts sometimes. And yeah, I mean, I think that's why it's so fascinating to think about these things and talk about them because.

There isn't a right or wrong. It's always that it depends.

JH: [00:23:34] Yeah, a question I have from a little bit of a different angle is, I see a lot of similarities between anthropology and user research. Like, you know, on the surface, there seems to be a lot of overlap, but something that I think, and this might just be my own ignorance. That feels like a difference is. I assume anthropology is these like longer, really immersed studies of something.

And whereas I think of user research, maybe you're going to talk to five people for half hour or 60 minutes each and you might, you know, project to project or study, you know, stay on the same topic, but it feels a little like quicker in duration. is there anything to that or are they actually, I'm making up a difference that isn't there.

Vanessa: [00:24:12] No, I would generally agree with that. I do think that with anthropology, it is possible, of course, to do very short studies, but. A lot of its foundations are more from ethnographic type of work where you're really spending a lot of time to get a deeper understanding. and I think again, there's pros and cons to that.

I think working as a researcher in industry, a lot of times we want to think about. Action and impact and being able to just draw the information that can make a difference. And so I do question that sometimes it's like, it's a lot more actionable than anthropology, which sometimes does feel like learning for the sake of learning.

Like we're not going to act on this or make a change. we're just putting that information out there versus. UX research really feels like we can do some good with that information, but do we ever you lose out on some of that depth, that exists in, I guess, more the traditional stuff, social sciences and academia.

Erin: [00:25:21] And we do, you know, there's a lot of mixed methods happening in UX research and particularly for companies that are able to invest in, discovery and finding new opportunities where. Some of these more anthropology G adjacent and inspired methods seem to come up with diary studies, focus groups, which are, not super for in favor everywhere these days, but, you know, there are these kind of methods that are either.

A more group based, more longitudinal, more, you know, in person, the researchers embedded in these kinds of things that have obvious ties to anthropology.

Vanessa: [00:26:04] I agree. And I think one of my favorites for bringing in richer context is doing a contextual inquiry and really going onsite or in someone's home or into their business, because you'll always see and even feel. A richer experience of seeing their environment, seeing when they're interrupted, how they're navigating things and then how they're telling you about something and able to point to it.

So for sure, the work that I do and, the work that my team does, we've definitely tried to be able to bring more of that back. I think in the more recent years I've seen a large trend in storytelling and how people are getting really excited about storytelling workshops and the power, and just like how to craft narratives and bring in that human touch.

And so I know quotes and kind of video footage have always been a part of the work that we do, but really thinking about, How to leverage those to have the most impact. And I don't know, sometimes it still fascinates me at how much a two minute video clip can just resonate with stakeholders where they're talking about it for weeks and weeks after, rather than me telling them the findings or I'm running through the themes in that way.

JH: [00:27:38] Yeah, that feels similar to the, you know, research. It was done a while ago around, like for generating donations for charities and stuff. When you show a spot, that's very like statistically driven of like, here's all these facts and figures that people who need help. And please give versus when you say like here's one zoomed in story about a person who needs help that, like you get a much stronger response and you see people engage at a much higher rate.

Like it feels similar to that in the sense of. that firsthand clip or that like personal story really sticks with people in a more powerful way.

Vanessa: [00:28:08] Yeah, absolutely. I took those courses in grad school that was around designing influence. And that was actually one of the things that was revisited as like the classic, structure and literature you have. Those pathways and logos. And like, do you use, your own credibility? Do you use logic or do you use that emotional pull to try to convince someone to do something and really, so much is about the emotional pole.

Like you can have all the facts, you can have all the data and of course those things matter, but that is not going to be the tipping point for someone to buy into something it's really about. how you're making them feel and what their own stake is in that.

Erin: [00:28:53] No. I'm thinking about how. Those tools can be used for evil. I don't know if you have seen the social dilemma, which a lot of people are watching right now, or I'm sure you're familiar with the concepts of I'm sure we all are. Yeah. We've got an election coming up. We had one, four years ago.  yeah, certain tech tools, most of which we're all familiar have been leveraged by both good and bad actors to take advantage of the emotions of.

People to get them to do things. Maybe some of us would agree or not such great things. you know, thinking about something you said a little bit earlier, right? Where as an experienced researcher, a lot of no knowing where to probe is. Based on judgment and based on experience. And you might not know that's what's going on there, but you might just sort of, you know, sense, Intuit judge.

that's an issue. Interesting place to go. So, when I think about judgment, that's also, it's, you know, judgment can, is not neutral necessarily. Oh really? And I guess I'm wondering, you know, when you're hiring UX researchers, because the output of what they can deliver for a team is really, this is what's going to motivate users.

This is their context and what they're feeling. You could probably use that for good or evil. and you could make good or evil judgements, you know, in the, obviously there's a spectrum there, based on, you know, what your company's motivations are and what your company wants to judge and to see, and, you know, in the context of the world we live in right now, I'm curious.

What thoughts you might have about the anthropologically minded UX researchers role to be a good moral judge given that judgment is not objective, right. 

Vanessa: [00:30:49] Yeah, that is a great question. And I don't know if I've thought extremely hard about weeding out bad actors. Maybe I've been very fortunate in my career, but a lot of times what I see is even more prevalent is people that are extremely well intentioned that. Aren't necessarily thinking about the unintended consequences and then unintentionally doing harm because they are conveying certain things or are just prioritizing one thing over another that can then exclude a group or kind of sway the conversation in a way that maybe doesn't have favorable outcomes for everyone.

So I, yeah, maybe I won't speak on how to weed out the bad actors. Cause I haven't thought that through as deeply yet, but I think in terms of mitigating these unintended consequences, I think that is a really interesting conversation to have, especially, like I said, because so many people are very well intentioned.

but then we have all of these systems that. Continue to cause harm. And so one of the phrases that I've been using very frequently lately is that everything is by design. I think so many times when something. breaks or when something doesn't go according to plan, we just say, you know, there a bad actor, the, the system broke rather than acknowledging no, potentially by design.

And it was with. It turned out audience in mind and it's working very well for that audience. it's just that we have a lot of casualties along the way for the people that don't fit into that main target audience. And so I think approaching it from that angle, that's something I've been trying to think about.

How can we, I guess try to leverage frameworks or criteria or ways of thinking that continue to remind people that it has to work for a broader group of people or that, many of the unintended consequences, I guess are preventable.

JH: [00:33:17] Yeah, I think that side of it is really interesting because I do generally believe that, you know, a lot of people, especially like working in technology are well intentioned and their heart's in the right place. But then to your point, you get these systems around you and you have this goal that you're in charge of optimizing or achieving, and you find something that works for enough.

People that you can see that metric move or whatever, right? you find something that works for 60 or 70% of the base, and that gets you to the outcome that you're incentivized to get to. And then there's all of these externalities and fallouts, from that, because. You know, that person went into with good intentions, but they didn't have time and space to think about it more holistically instead of your point about like, you know, it's by design it's, there's just, there's such a complex interplay there that, maybe that's a whole other episode we should have you back and then dive into that one.

But, yeah, I think it's a really interesting part of this whole dynamic.

Vanessa: [00:34:05] Yeah. I think even, yeah, the ways that we measure success have so much to do with that. Right. I'm thinking about, okay. There are many obvious things that a business needs to do, like generate. revenue in order to stay afloat. But then I think within tech, there's all these other things that we start to measure like daily active users and engagement.

And a lot of times, the trendy phrases, like drive engagement and increase this and, you know, they all sound very positive and I guess. Goals worth, trying to achieve, but then the reality is that actually good before the end user? And does that make sense for the product that you're creating?

will having someone use something more frequently or longer impact their mental or physical or emotional wellbeing? in the way that you intend for it to, or are you not even considering that? Is it simply about, increasing that metric or moving that metric and in one direction or another? So I think even just, another thing that I think has been on the forefront for me is like, What an individual has the power to do versus what systems drive people to do.

And so how can we just be more mindful of the targets that are being set for, I mean, entire teams of people and continuing to question and call out. Whether short term versus long term, that is the right thing to strive for. And how do we measure success and how do we start making decisions? When there are trade offs between multiple metrics that we care about?

Erin: [00:36:06] Trade off straight top of mind for me right now. I just did a, I love thinking about trade cause it's naive to think that there aren't. but it's also. cowardly to not make decisions despite the trade offs that exist. we've been talking about anthropology in the context of talking to users, right.

Of doing research, but something that comes up a lot also is applying some. UX research methods internally to working with our internal teams. And you're talking about right. how much impact can I have as an individual versus the systems that I work in, in the larger systems still that, you know, govern the world.

We all live in. And I wonder, can you turn some of the learnings from anthropology, right? That is the study of people in groups to, being more impactful as a user researcher internally within the internal culture of a company.

Vanessa: [00:37:00] Yeah, that is a great question.

Erin: [00:37:02] Yeah,no, the answer is no, not applicable.

Vanessa: [00:37:12] Well, when it comes to like making the workplace a more equitable place, I've seen work done there where just, um, Investigating, you know, whose voices are heard, what ideas have merit, how are employees interacting? I mean, not only, I guess, across the race and gender lines, but even across discipline lines, you know?

And, I think there's conversations within industry of like, this is a design led organization versus an engineering led organization. How does that actually then change, you know, who gets a say and how products are developed or created. So I think there's space to apply some of those frameworks internally, too, and thinking about how we work and how that affects, the end result, I guess.

JH: [00:38:08] Yeah, it feels like there's a way you can, like people in groups respond to incentives. Right. And so you can put these tools to work out, like, do we have the right incentives and maybe try to approach it that way to some degree, but I don't know. Maybe that's not the right angle either.

Vanessa: [00:38:23] Yeah, no, I agree. And I mean, even again, the simple acknowledgement of understanding that our colleagues are human too, and that they have their own motives and incentives and people get attacked. To their own ideas. And how do you respect that and acknowledge them and make them feel valued as people first, before expecting outcomes.

I think all of those things play a role ultimately into, the experiences that we create and. I think I liked that word experience says a lot because sometimes if you just think about it, Oh yeah, it's a product or service or an app. I don't know. it might be too shallow or narrow of a way of thinking of it.

But if you think about some of the technology we use and just how. It can become a reflection of who we are and status and how we think about ourselves and all of the different emotions and ways that it alters our life. Like we really have to think about the entire experience that what we're creating is gonna provide to.

Someone that's using our thing directly or even inadvertently, like, I think about, you know, the phones we carry around every day and how's that impacting not only us personally, but the people around us that aren't even on their phones.

JH: [00:39:52] Yeah. Hi, how are you doing as a person these days? The world is so crazy. It's good to check in with everyone.

Vanessa: [00:39:59] That's a great question. I think. I'm taking it in strides and taking it one day at a time for me, um, it's difficult to balance sometimes my own response and reaction to things and how to take care and tend to like my own thoughts and feelings versus feeling like, I want to make sure that the voice that I have, I can use to help other people that look like me or, or backgrounds.

And also I guess, use my own privilege. Like I think everyone has different forms of privilege that they're capable of leveraging. And so I think it's a complicated journey, but overall, I'm trying to make the best of it and just take it one day at a time.

Erin: [00:40:52] Well, thanks for sharing this day with us. And, yeah, the human experience, not just a product or app 

Vanessa: [00:41:03] Thank you for having me.

Carrie Boyd

Content Creator

Carrie Boyd is a Content Creator at User Interviews. She loves writing, traveling, and learning new things. You can typically find her hunched over her computer with a cup of coffee the size of her face.

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