Getting our ‘Gadget Game’ on

A defining tenet of the User Experience Group holds that to truly drive user-centered technology development, we must look beyond our own experiences to understand how people around the world live and how they use technology. We are not our own consumers. To that end, my team has spent time in over 800 households in more than 22 countries to learn how consumers perceive and use technology in their daily lives, to ensure that we don’t base our User Experience vision on our own lives, and those of our tech-savvy Intel colleagues. Recently, however, we did investigate how, why and where Intel employees use technology in a research game (fueled by free cupcakes) that we set up in a few Intel site cafeterias in Oregon. This event expanded our knowledge of how the technology experiences of our Intel colleagues compare with those of consumers we’ve studied around the world, and gave us the opportunity to bring our research to our primary stakeholders in a very real and fun way. Here are Heather Campbell and Delia Grenville to tell you more about why we did it and what we learned – the expected, the unexpected and some of the key insights that help us think through what we are seeing beyond Intel’s walls.

A couple of weeks ago, we took a break from our usual daily responsibilities and had the whole team come together to do a fun research activity. We had several criteria: it must be a short data collection activity including analysis so we could get it done in 1 day and during usual business hours; it must expand our knowledge beyond TV; it must contain a retail element; and it should be on campus.

Don’t double take! We decided to do a fun research activity with our own employees. We talked about the pros and cons before moving forward. What would we gain by studying our own Intel employees habits and behaviors in terms of their consumer electronic devices? After considerable back and forth, we hypothesized the following: Intel’s gadget junkies would be at least 2 sigma from what we imagined to be the mean of technology users. And, we decided that Intel employees, as a group, were an important population to give us a quick heads up around changing patterns and emerging behaviors around technology use. We thought that comparing some of the stories our colleagues told us with our repository of ethnographic research from 800+ households in 22 countries would give us some initial insights about people’s ever-evolving digital lifestyles. And lastly, we thought it would be a fun way to reach out to our stakeholders and make research more visible to our colleagues.

Our short research exercise, called “Get your Gadget Game on”, took place at two of the most popular Intel cafeterias in Oregon. We had no shortage of people willing to share their stories with us. In all we talked with close to 60 people in 2 ½ hours during brief but very informative mini-interviews. The playfulness of the activity really appealed to our coworkers. We modified the cultural probe approach (Gaver, Dunne, Pacenti, 1999) and provided our participants with cards representing CE devices that they could place on a white board which represented their digital lifestyle.


> In our rapid data analysis session, we created 2 categories to help us sort out the conversations we had just heard. Here’s what these categories looked like:



> So, what are some of the things we learned from talking to our colleagues?

• When you have control and knowledge, content turns into data: which is easier managed, less precious, perplexing, and worrisome. The anxiety surrounding keeping up with DVRed content that UEG ethnographers consistently noted during household visits the last few years, is less pronounced with Intel employees who describe their recorded content as ‘data’ rather than programs, shows or movies. Particularly among those employees who set up their own home networks and recording capabilities, content is measured in memory.

• Expectations are everything. Intel employees have more awareness of what they want in the future and why than most of the people we interview. They are enthusiastic and well-informed of their future device purchases, and comfortable with DIY projects to get content where they want it, if a ready-made solution is not currently available in retail stores.

• Intel employees, as a group, resist restrictions. Traditional content and CE boundaries, don’t apply!

Overall, it was a fun activity. It’s already showing the impact that we wanted in terms of increasing awareness of how we do research with our internal stakeholders. We’ll keep you posted about whether or not the emerging trends we saw with Intel employees start to show up outside our walls.


Gaver, B., Dunne, T., and Pacenti, E. 1999. Design: Cultural probes. interactions 6, 1 (Jan. 1999), 21-29.