Self-Service? The impact of the rise in self-service and automation on users and providers.
“The Dundee Summer Hothouse epitomises for me the way that industry-academic collaborations of the future could and should work. Everyone wins.” - David Prendergast, European Social Science and Design Lead, Health Research and Innovation, Intel Labs (Hothouse 2010 and 2011, now external examiner for the MSc programme)
The Dundee Design Ethnography team are on a mission; we are looking for s small group (4 or 5) of organisations to join us for a summer investigating the impact of the rise of self-service and automation on users and providers. The start of the 21st century has been marked by the rapid growth of the self-service revolution begun in the 20th century. Self-service has now become visible in high street shopping centres, in airports, even in health care settings. It’s not just in retail and service sales contexts that self-service is becoming more important. Governments, public and voluntary sector organizations, educational institutions, even the arts, are all becoming sites of self-service experience/provision. But what is this shift from staffed to unstaffed service doing to the user experience, and to service providers? Are we really designing for some solitary self, or are things more complex than that? The research space is huge, for example:
- Self? - Self-service supermarket checkout and airline check-in kiosks are now commonplace. But whereas when they first appeared they were often devoid of all but the occasional brave user, we are now used to seeing around them a flurry of users and, interestingly, a retinue of staff there to help people with the ‘self- service’ process. The more unstaffed service grows the more it seems we need, or are required to use, new kinds of staff within the self-service experience. What impact is this having on staff, organisations and users? How do people feel about needing help at the kiosk? Why is it so hard to create a truly self-service experience? Who is the ‘self’ we are designing for, are they really alone in the experience: what happens when the ‘self” service is in a multi-user context – for example when a self-service transaction is being conducted on behalf of a group of people?
- Better? – For service providers the narrative is that self-service (whether it be buying groceries, making a financial transaction, or learning something new) is cost- effective and improves user experience. But how do services users define ‘better’? What are the hidden impacts on both users and providers of the shift to self- service or automation? And how do self-service and social networks (online and/or real world) interact?
- Barriers? – many people still find self-service off-putting. Whether it’s buying the groceries, finding our way around a building or accessing customer-support, the lack of the human touch is seemingly a barrier for many. What role do issues like trust, security and identity, play in different kinds of self-service encounter and industry context? Are some people more likely to use self-service than others, and what role might peer support play in encouraging the self-service refusers?
Ethnographic research offers a great way of getting up close and personal with some of theses issues, but for most organizations, even those that can afford to undertake exploratory ethnographic research, tackling such a huge space is difficult. This is where the University of Dundee MSc in Design Ethnography Hothouse Summer comes in…
The Hothouse Idea
Like most masters courses, we need industry projects for our students. Learning how to be a good design ethnographer is greatly accelerated by live experience with a real client. In the current climate, such projects can also offer a cost-effective way for an organization to engage in exploratory or blue-sky work design research work. Working with you we help to define a project for a small team of ethnographers, project manage your team, and coordinate with you to ensure that the focus and outcomes are delivered to suit you (not us!). But why have only one project when you could have 4 or 5? The novel bit is that during and after the project our partners share their progress and outcomes: you sign up for one project but you get insight into several! And our students work on one project but learn from several. It’s open innovation for industry-academia partnerships.
“Great experience with dedicated students, curious, well trained and aware of what is important in our job, ready to learn, hard workers, independent and creative, and tech-friendly. We did a great job together and really could use their fieldwork thanks to a straight collaboration in its preparation and analysis. I am looking forward to collaborating on another top topic!” - Laure Kloetzer, Senior Corporate Antropologist, Swisscom (Hothouse 2010 and 2011)
When Does This Happen?
Projects officially start May 1st and end the 2nd week of August. We develop the project briefs with our industry partners in March and April.
Is This an Internship?
No. Students are based in various locations around the world and primarily managed and supported by the Dundee faculty team. Your relationship with them is in effect that of client and consultants. We ask you to meet in person at least once in May where possible to launch the project, subsequent meetings are usually a mix of online/phone and in person. We have however found that as with any consultancy, the more face-to-face time the team and you have together, the better the project goes.
What Will It Cost?
Three things: Time. Money. Enthusiasm.
- Time: How much time you put in is up to you and your circumstances. Our experience though indicates that the minimum time required is: around 4 hours during March and April for us to work with you on developing a project brief for your team. During the main project period we ask you to commit to meeting online or in person with your team at least once a fortnight for an hour. A further hour will be required for meeting prep, responding to team requests for information or help, etc. We will also ask you to complete a project wrap-up report, which will take around an hour.
- Money: We charge a basic fee of £4000 to cover university and student travel etc. costs for projects based mainly in the UK and Europe. Projects with fieldwork sites beyond the UK/EU or with particularly high fieldwork costs are negotiated individually.
- Enthusiasm: Our students are well trained, energetic and desperate to do a good job for you. This project will provide their main talking point in job interviews when they graduate. Their enthusiasm is at your disposal, but like all students they are learning. They will need your guidance, input and enthusiasm too.
Where Can I get Fieldwork Done?
Our students are internationally diverse and happy to travel wherever necessary for your project. Past fieldwork sites have included Indonesia, the USA, Germany, Finland, India and the UK. In 2012 we can offer potential fieldwork opportunities in the USA, UK, Germany, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hungary, Indonesia or Canada.
How Do I Find Out More?
Contact Hothouse Director Dr Cat Macaulay: email@example.com.