Case Study

Anthropologists' Role in Product Development

At creative product-based companies, social scientists play a behind-the-scenes, yet crucial, role in helping inventions to realize their full potential. Anthropologist Genevieve Bell works in the technology industry doing just that. She was quoted in Financial Times saying "I'm always looking for the ethnographic story that turns your world on its ear, the thing that challenges some really basic core assumption you have made."

When Bell was researching uses for mobile phones in different parts of the world, she interviewed a Malaysian man who said that he uses the GPS in his mobile phone to find Mecca daily. "Here's a piece of technology that is being help up as the quintessential symbol of modernity being used to support a set of cultural practices that have 1,700 years of time depth," she said.