The Product Ecology: Understanding Social Product Use and Supporting Design Culture
Jodi Forlizzi


The field of interaction design has broadened its focus from issues surrounding one person interacting with one system to how systems are socially and culturally situated among groups of people. To understand the situations surrounding product use interaction design researchers have turned to qualitative, ethnographic research methods. However, stripped from underlying theory, these methods can be prescriptive at best. This paper introduces Product Ecology as a theoretical design framework to describe how products evoke social behavior, to provide a roadmap for choosing appropriate qualitative research methods and to extend design culture within HCI by allowing for flexible, design-centered research planning and opportunity-seeking. This product-centered framework is illustrated as a method for selecting a set of design research methods and for working with other research approaches that study people in naturalistic settings.

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