Contextual Inquiry | WM

Contextual Inquiry: WM

On February 23, we conducted a contextual inquiry with WM, a senior at Williams College. WM is a geocacher and self-described “wanderer,” and we took this opportunity to observe both his wandering and his (reenacted) geocaching on a walk around campus.

Our first conversation took place in upstairs Paresky, where we fleshed out some details of what geocaching is. Essentially, a geocacher is given a set of coordinates that is accurate to about 20-50 ft in radius and some details about accessibility, and they are tasked with finding a “cache” of items that could be hidden within any number of containers. WM described his own experiences with man-made rocks, fake sprinkler heads, and magnetized bolts, explaining that the most common hiding places tend to be underneath benches and in trees, depending on the environment. Additionally, when presented with the concept for P‽n, WM expressed that such an app would likely improve his geocaching or wandering experiences, since he was occasionally curious about things he came across but found it difficult to track down answers to his questions. This opinion was given with the caveat that a phone app may actually detract from his experience instead if he were to be bombarded with notifications, suggesting that perhaps a smartwatch might be better suited to his purposes. However, he also mentioned that he did not find the need to Google things often.

At this point, we decided to take a walk around campus so that WM might show us how he would go about wandering or geocaching. He pointed out various things that he was curious about, namely certain structures and sculptures in Greylock Quad and geographical features near Science Quad, and reenacted his process for geocaching in Greylock Quad. While this did not provide much information beyond what he explained to us about his process, WM did offer up some suggestions about the app while walking that would be interesting to him. These included a somewhat guided tour type feature, access to information on historical value of old buildings, and some method of identifying animal tracks. WM did not mention any new problems aside from the potential notification storm that comes with carrying a smartphone.

We encountered no difficulties establishing a rapport or obtaining information; WM was willing to share his methods, potentially because he is friends with one of our group members (not involved in the contextual inquiry). However, after this conversation, we will be limiting the scope of the inquiry somewhat, since this was lengthy, and will be focusing more specifically on the features of our design that will be helpful to our target users. We will also pare down the questions we asked to those that are most insightful to us. In terms of positive feedback, the walk was helpful for visualizing WM’s explanations, and was a good method for actually observing natural curiosity.

We will be going to either WCMA or the Clark on Sunday to conduct our next contextual inquiry with a museum visitor (and may also do another fly-on-the-wall observation there), and our third is scheduled for February 26 with another Williams student who is an amateur birdwatcher and fisher.