Two story about Assumption

About Assumption.
Today I will talk about two short story about assumption.

Todays CGT class was about the user interview. With a limited budget and schedule, which is too typical in IxD, we had to finish the user interview in 3 hour with no budget. Dr. Vorvoreanu wanted us to find the ways to improve CGT website to increase the minority-ethnographic portion of the students.

So we worked in the rush and vigor, which is also too typical in the Dr.Vorvoreanu’s class. We made a turn to be an interviewer and an interviewee. When my turn has arrived, I happened to interview Stewart. We had already a few fruitless interviews with the local american males, who had never used CGT website as an aid for the decision for the admission for the Purdue CGT. Anyway they have finished their undergraduate here, and know everything about the department, so why do he care about the contents of the website so that more minority international students will be interested? So I declared it’s the end of the interview after first question. I was thinking that I will save time in this fruitless interview and will have more time in more potentially fruitful interview with say ,a Chinese woman. But I was wrong. First, I was the last. There will be no more interview. So I continued anyway. And I found that he knew and articulated about the CGT so well that he provided very valuable insight about how to improve the site by providing more appealing research sample of professor to the potential student. That was my first assumption. Though he was not our target user group, it doesn’t mean I don’t have to interview him.

The second assumption is more subtle. During the meeting with the Stewart, he mentioned that we should consider intellectual diversity more than the ethnographic diversity. I liked his point, and it made sense to question the fundamental assumption. Why do we have to increase the minority ethnographic share at first? What does the stake holder get from it? So I questioned Dr.Vorvoreanu about it, for she was the only stake holder in hand. It turned out the major push behind this was government, who wanted diversity. And you know what? What was important was the diversity between Americans like African or hispanic American. So all of our effort about how we can increase the interest of the Chinese or Korean or Indian girls to the CGT, found to be useless or out of the point, for we had an assumption about the “ethnographic diversity”. If we had the stake holder interview before this, we would prevent from this. That’s where the established process shines. And why Dr.Vorvoreanu could not explain this at first more specifically? In my opinion, it can be politically incorrect to say something like that in public, like the government pushes it and the ratio of african American graduate student is too low. So that’s why stake interview should be held in small setting where one can express their opinion more freely.

So that was the two assumption which was wrong today. We rely heavily on assumption in our daily life. However it is really hard to see it is assumption when the assumption is really nice and applies to almost all situation. It is like it is hard for us to perceive that there is an air, before there is no air.

As a human being, we all have assumptions. It means it is inevitable that we, interaction designer, will have some when we are doing user research. Though it is inevitable, it is important that we perceive that what we have is an assumption and check and evaluate it with real world data.  And now I remember from the readings they mentioned something like that.  So from the reading and real experience it becomes more clear now.

As a young man I always make mistakes. And what I like about University is that it is relatively safe place to make mistake. We can learn from the failure as much as we can from the success. But what is important is not repeating the same mistakes. Being a person with a humble memory myself, I hope this blogging and reflection helps me remember.

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3 thoughts on “Two story about Assumption

  1. Very wise post, Deok. Assumptions are very dangerous – both in work and in personal life. They breed conflict and misunderstanding. As an interviewer, I have learned that asking questions with the curiosity of a 5-year old about what may seem the simplest things often leads to tremendous insight.

    Back when I was a grad student in communication, we had this saying, that “assumptions make an a$$ out of you and me.” It’s a good reminder about how dangerous they can be!

    Your post also tells me that I made an assumption that everybody shares the U.S. political understanding of diversity – and that was a mistake. The other assumption I made is that everyone read and understood the book chapters – but I won’t consider that one a mistake! 🙂

  2. Good insight, Deok. I was working with you in the same group so I had this same confusion about who should be our right interviewees and why weren’t we getting them as interviewees. But maybe it’s not a bad idea to have someone from a “comparison group” over a “experimental group”, i.e., getting some opinions from people who are not the targeted users but share many similar ethnographic characteristics except certain ones (in our case, someone who is a grad student, is in CGT, has used the website, but is not from a minority group).

  3. Reflection on conducting contextual inquiry interview « Jack Chang on HCI

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