Stovetops and Laptops

Every year On-Site Research conducts a cross-country ethnographic study called Cyber Census. Members of the research team drive an RV across 20 states to track a core group of 150 Americans and their use of and interaction with Web-based and other technology. The interviews are designed to allow the researchers to embed themselves in the consumer’s real life, from a few hours to days spent living with the study participant. Researchers also conduct a full exploration of the consumer’s online life via a surf-along, which lets them experience their cyber lives. The research shows that people are increasingly looking for a space in the home, most often the kitchen or family room, where they can interact with people and media in both physical and cyberspace. They want a highly interactive room that lets them socialize in physical space while using their hand-held devices and computers to access their virtual environments. This trend has manifested in a number of ways: In some homes, dining rooms are rarely used for dining, computers are migrating out of the home offi ce, and technology of all types has moved to the family kitchen. These observations led the researchers to the acronym HIVE (highly interactive virtual environment) and the associated term hiving, which is our way of characterizing this trend. People report hiving for many reasons, but the most common reason is that they don’t want to be isolated from others. The home offi ce/den fi lled with technology may give you the ability to communicate with others online, but it does little to connect you with the actual people in the home. Consumers report “catching grief” from spouses because they spend too much time on the computer away from the family, especially during dinner time. Parents are concerned about monitoring their children while they use the computer for homework and other activities. And parents of older children really worry about all the time their teens spend alone on the computer and hand-held devices. Another factor driving hiving is Americans’ addiction to multitasking. Multitasking in the HIVE is what the HIVE is all about. In a well-equipped HIVE, you can make dinner, talk on your phone via Bluetooth, help your kids on the computer do their homework, charge your hand-held devices, download and sync your media, check your e-mail, watch television, check your stocks, pay bills and still feel that you are a part of the social activity in the home. The laptop has become as common as the toaster oven in the kitchen. And electric cords and chargers clutter countertops, making a different kind of spaghetti.41


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1. How might this type of research benefi t GE, Viking, or Jenn-Air?

 2. Should qualitative research be undertaken before any actual strategies are developed? Why?

 3. What other types of research could have been used to gather this information?

 4. This research was conducted in less than half of the states. Might this bias the survey findings? If so, how?

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