What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is the scientific study of humans, past and present, that draws and builds upon knowledge from the social sciences, life sciences, and humanities. Since the work of Franz Boas and Bronisław Malinowski in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, social anthropology in Great Britain and cultural anthropology in the US have been distinguished from other social sciences by its emphasis on cross-cultural comparisons, long-term, in-depth examination of context, and the importance it places on participant-observation or experiential immersion in the area of research. Cultural anthropology, in particular, has emphasized cultural relativism, holism, and the use of findings to frame cultural critiques. This has been particularly prominent in the United States, from Boas’ arguments against 19th-century racial ideology, through Margaret Mead’s advocacy for gender equality and sexual liberation, to current criticisms of post-colonial oppression and promotion of multiculturalism. Ethnography is one of its primary research designs as well as the text that is generated from anthropological fieldwork.
In Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries, the British tradition of social anthropology tends to dominate. In the United States, anthropology has traditionally been divided into the four field approach developed by Franz Boas in the early 20th century: biological or physical anthropology; social, cultural, or sociocultural anthropology; archaeology; and linguistic anthropology. These fields frequently overlap but tend to use different methodologies and techniques. European countries with overseas colonies tended to practice more ethnology (a term coined and defined by Adam F. Kollár in 1783). In non-colonial European countries, social anthropology is now defined as studying social organization in non-state societies. It is sometimes referred to as sociocultural anthropology in the parts of the world that were influenced by the European tradition.
How Does Anthropology Relate to UX?
Anthropology is the study of human cultures, societies, and behaviors, and it has several connections to the field of user experience (UX). In UX, anthropologists may study the behaviors, motivations, and cultural context of users to inform the design of products and services. This type of research can provide valuable insights into how users think, feel, and behave and can help UX designers to create solutions that are tailored to the needs and preferences of the user.
One way that anthropology relates to UX is through the use of ethnographic research methods. Ethnography is a research method in anthropology that involves observing and studying people in their natural environments to gain a deep understanding of their cultures and behaviors. In UX, ethnographic research can be used to observe users in their everyday environments and to gather data about their behaviors, motivations, and preferences. This type of research can provide valuable insights that can inform the design of user-centered solutions.
Another way that anthropology relates to UX is through the study of human-computer interaction (HCI). HCI is an interdisciplinary field that draws on anthropology, psychology, computer science, and other disciplines to understand how people interact with technology. In UX, HCI research can provide valuable insights into how users perceive, understand, and interact with digital products and services and can help to inform the design of user-centered solutions.
How to Apply Anthropology to UX