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Episode Info: In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I chat with Colin MacArthur, the Head of Design Research at the Canadian Digital Service. We talk about bureaucracy hacking, spreading the gospel of research throughout government, and embedding researchers in complex domains. Often the idiosyncrasies in people’s research and the sort of surprises that don’t fit within the template are the most important things that our researchers find. – Colin MacArthur Show Links It Choose You Miranda July The Future PennySaver Advancing Research conference Colin on LinkedIn Colin on Twitter Canadian Digital Service Treasury Board of Canada Scott Brison, Canada’s First Minister of Digital Government Public opinion research Snowball sampling Randomized controlled trial Stand-up meeting Homepage Usability by Jakob Nielsen and Marie Tahir U.S. National Park Service Wizard of Oz ResearchOps Follow Dollars to Donuts on Twitter and help other people find the podcast by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Transcript Steve Portigal: Welcome to Dollars to Donuts, the podcast where I talk with the people who lead user research in their organization. I just read the 2011 book “It Chooses You” by filmmaker and artist Miranda July. It’s one of the best books about ethnographic research that isn’t really actually about ethnographic research. In the book she describes a period of her life where she was creatively stalled in finishing the screenplay for her film “The Future.” As a way to either get unblocked or just avoid what she should be working on, she develops another project, to call people who have placed ads in the free classified newspaper the PennySaver, and arrange to come to their homes and interview them. She reports on each of the interviews, including excerpts of the transcripts, and some amazing photographs. The interviews are sort of about the thing being sold, but because she’s getting outside of her cultural bubble, she takes a wider view, asking people about a period in their life when they were happy and whether or not they used a computer (since even in 2011 a newspaper with classified ads was a relic of a previous era). These interviews are confounding, hilarious, disturbing, touching – everything you’d hope. And July is honest about what makes her uncomfortable, about her own failures to properly exhibit empathy when it’s needed, or her challenge in exercising caution in some dodgy situations while still being open to connecting with strangers. She incorporates her feelings about her own life as she hears from people about their hopes and their reflections back on their lives, lived well or not so well. She articulates her own judgements about the people she met and how that informs her current thinking about her own life and her aspirations for her future. In one chapter she meets Beverly, a woman with Bengal leopard babies and birds and sheep and dogs. Beverly was clearly excited for Miranda’s visit, and prepared an enormous amount o...
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