Tag Archives: Jan Chipchase

You Are What You Carry

I agree with Chipchase’s point that technology advancement makes us carry less, remember less to owning less. Let’s just talk about mobile phones for instance. In the 1990s, we still carried mobile phones that are so bulky, with an antenna on it. Now, our mobile phone is pocket sized and multifunctional. We do not need to carry another hard copy of maps of the place we would like to visit, we do not need to carry an address book full of contacts of important people. We carry less and as a result, remember less as well. Whenever we want to call someone, we don’t even need to type in their phone number, we just select their name and make a call. As technology progresses, people realise that they do not use all the things they own very often. As a result, the sharing economy is introduced. We are now sharing cars with strangers through sharing apps such as Uber and Grab. The presence of these apps gives us the sense of security we never had before when we simply were not allowed to climb into a vehicle with strangers. Thus, we also own less: having a car is no longer a necessity.

I like the observation of paradox in Afghanistan. With low literacy rate, sometimes technology might not be the answer to improve the level of security. Sometimes people are more trusting when they see with their own eyes. The same thing also happened in a lot of developing countries, such as Indonesia. When the government tries to automate passport application in Indonesia to tackle the problem of scalpers, people are not very responsive to the system change, thinking that there might be a suspicious new corruption technique by the government.

The Anthropology of Mobile Phones

Jan Chipchase mentioned some relevant points I have seen in my life. First, regarding the valuables that people carry: money, key and mobile phones. He also mentioned that mobile phones have actually situated at the security and even physiological needs level at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; a point that I have not realised before. Looking back to 2007, I used mobile phones just to communicate with my family and my friends. There was a rising trend in using Blackberry phone in Indonesia and people were so excited to be able to communicate using Blackberry chat platform; the first social media we got to know even before Facebook. Now, not only we are using smartphones (without any more keypads necessary), our lives are also involved around apps, be it for entertainment purposes, or even to help us manage our lives better. This brings to the next point Chipchase mentioned.

The fact that human likes to forget things, we delegate tasks to other people or in this case, our phone to do our tasks. From remembering people’s contacts, setting our schedules, to even replacing our wallet as a medium for payment. E-banking has made our financial management very easy, deliberating the tedious process of queueing in a bank just to get the service. Paywaves, Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay (and the list goes on…), make our lives easier when purchasing is just a tap away. As we are moving to a cashless society, e-money might some day replace cash but they are still debatable to this day. With more convenience, there are more responsibilities as well. People are becoming more anxious when they lose their phones because everything about them is on their phones. When our security and privacy is at stake, to what extent do people want to trade them for convenience?

The third point that Chipchase discussed is the street innovation. In 2007 when people were still using Nokia phones, there are a lot of repair services in malls and IT centres. Even when our phones’ battery needs replacement, we can go to these stores and look for a new one and voila! We can continue using our old phones. Nowadays, we are using smartphones with irreplaceable batteries which I think is one strategy from phone companies to beat the street innovation. However, we all know that somewhere in China, there are people who can revive our old iPhones. Therefore, designers also need to learn from the streets how to challenge the norm, to meet people’s needs better and make products that are more suitable for the user.


Calibrating your cultural compass – Week 2

I like the way Jan Chipchase studies people behaviour, from different cultures all over the world by observing their daily activities, especially the morning commute.  I agree that societal behaviour is best observed in the morning, as people usually follow certain daily habits. In Singapore, I observe people usually wake up early in the morning, board the MRT trains to get to their office which usually starts at 8-9AM, and just before they get to their office, they usually buy a cup of coffee, or even a breakfast set from nearby coffee shops. Students need to wake up even earlier to reach the school on time at 7.30 AM (note that some school have late days).

ToastBox in the morning. Photo from: ToastBox

Among all the observation methods suggested in this chapter, my favourite is to observe McDonalds’ menu from all over the world. Back in Indonesia, we have Fried Chicken with rice, and when I moved to Singapore and realised that McDonald’s here do not offer such menu, I was surprised at first. I thought Singapore and Indonesia share the same spice palate since both are in South East Asia. It is interesting to find McDonald’s located at countries within the same region to have different menus. Malaysia’s McDonald’s sell durian McFlurry while Singapore’s does not.

Indonesian McDonald’s menu
Malaysia Durian McFlurry

Chipchase noted that in designing a product targeted to a certain group of audience, it is good to do some research on the cultural background. Get to know their needs, their habits, their schedule. Immerse in their lifestyle, so that we can customise the product according to the audience’s needs. With the combination of formal and informal data collection, this method could help us in understanding a society and therefore help us to make a better decision in designing products.


  1. In doing a cultural research, is it necessary to also observe the night life of a society, to collect observation about the security level and crime rate in the area?
  2. In a multicultural country such as Indonesia, how to make a general observation so that the product we design can benefit people from different backgrounds, both in urban and rural areas?

Cover photo was taken from: Today Online