Michael Wesch is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University and leads the Digital Ethnography Working Group. He was trying to find a way to describe Web 2.0 for a paper that he was writing and found that words were not quite enough – instead he created this video. Showing us rather than telling us what Web 2.0 is.
I love this video, as much for the content as for the example it sets. It’s true that some things aren’t easily explained with words, or indeed that some people find it easier to convey things in pictures or actions than words. Being creative and open in the way you describe things or allowing people to be creative and open in the way they respond to your questions can yield quite insightful results.
I know from my experience working with consumer good companies that customers often can’t describe what they think. If you want to understand what they think about your new smoothie brand, for example, some might be able to describe it whilst others might want to choose pictures that appropriate, make a short film or even draw a picture. Allowing a research process that lets people respond in these different ways is important, or indeed having an iterative process. Get some people to make films, others to put up pictures and others to describe in words. Then see how the group responds to this stimulus.
As Professor Wesch showed, social media tools and sites like YouTube allow for this kind of more creative description and development of ideas to flourish.
Oh, and here’s the video itself: