Excerpt from the original interview by Dianna Miller on November 15th, 2011
"Dianna Miller: I heard you speak a year or so after you joined Intel about the home studies your team conducted in China. Can you talk about how Intel envisioned the contribution of social research in 1998 when you started there? How has it changed over time?
Genevieve Bell: The impulse to hire social scientists generally—and anthropologists in particular—arose in the 1990s at Intel as markets the company had traditionally served changed and grew beyond recognition. If you can remember back that far (it seems forever ago), it was a time when the PC was starting to move from office and work functions into the home. It wasn’t precisely clear what people would do with computers during this shift. Intel hired social scientists to help explore what might happen. In the vernacular of my office at the time, it was all about “finding new users and new usages” for technology. We looked at emerging middle-class households in urban Asia and their complicated relationships to new information and communication technologies; we studied health-care providers, in homes and hospitals, and mapped their uses of digital devices and analog ones; we studied classrooms and televisions, teenagers and families with small kids. We spent a lot of time educating and engaging the engineers and other decision makers about what life was like beyond the walls of the company – it was exhilarating and exhausting.
These days I have a new research group at Intel – Interaction and Experience Research. Comprised of nearly one hundred researchers, running the gamut from ethnographers and interaction designers to computer scientists and physicists, my group is charged with reinventing how we experience computing. As Justin Rattner, my boss and Intel’s Chief Technology Officer likes to point out, we are “already late,” by which he means our relationships with computing are long due for an overhaul. We have a strongly interdisciplinary approach that shapes everything from framing questions to the projects we tackle and how we choose to share our thinking. Currently, we are exploring changing notions of storytelling and social participation; charting the shift in use of cameras, phones, and televisions; and hacking the latest screens, printers, and sensors to see what we can make with them, just to name some of our work..."