Contextual inquiry interviews

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be interviewing people in their homes. Being in the participants’ environment will not only allow me to talk with them, but also to take photographs of where they keep things like waste, recycling, and bottled water (if applicable). I’ll ask questions about their shopping habits, waste management, and how much they consider the environment in their everyday activities.

I will also be bringing with me a few probes: various stock images, plus six short texts which I wrote, all dealing with the issue of bottled water.

I chose the images based on five themes—emotionally positive, emotionally negative, dealing with statistics or information, evoking social norms, and evoking a personal perspective. Each image fits into one or more of these themes.

The images I'll be showing my participants

My hypothesis about the images is that people will be most drawn either to the images evoking social norm images, or to the images which have words conveying statistics. I think this might depend on the viewer’s personality.

Of the six texts, four are 2-sentence texts, and two are 3-paragraph texts. The texts are divided into two themes: the first gives a great deal of statistics about the environmental impact of bottled water and tells the reader that they can do something good for the environment if they stop drinking it. The second tells a story in first-person perspective, about someone’s reasons for choosing to stop drinking bottled water. It doesn’t specifically tell the reader to follow the author’s example, but it gives a clear way to take action. Both texts are based on a few different themes I’ve found in my research (such as “I try to do my part”, “I don’t think my actions make a difference”, or “I am environmentally-friendly when it’s convenient”).

My hypothesis about the texts is that people will not feel that the short texts give them enough information to make a decision. I am uncertain, but I think that the longer, statistic-based text might be more successful, because the personal story might be easier to pass off as someone else’s decision. Since the statistic-based text asks the viewer to take action, it’s harder to ignore.

I’ll ask the participants a few questions about the images and texts. The questions are based on William James McGuire’s “communication-persuasion matrix.” This matrix lists various elements of communication pieces that influence persuasion (called the “input”), and various ways that people must respond in order to change their behavior (the “output”). Since I’m interested in the participants’ responses to the text and images, I’ve chosen to focus on “output” steps #3-#6 (steps 1 and 2 are attention and comprehension, and I know that the participants will already have completed those steps):

  • Step 3 is whether people like or are drawn to the text/images
  • Step 4 is whether they understand the text/images
  • Step 5 deals with whether they learn something, and
  • Step 6 with whether the information contained in the text/image changes how they feel (e.g. their attitude).

I think asking four simple questions about these steps should help me get some feedback on which texts and images (if any) pass through successfully on the journey toward behavior change.

This is certainly a lot to fit into one interview but I’m sure it will give me a wealth of information—which I hope will lead to new insights and directly inform whatever I end up designing.

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One Response to Contextual inquiry interviews

  1. Pingback: November 18 thesis meeting | Jenny Shirey's Graduate Thesis Project

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