Bookmark: "Busting the Myth of the Giant Green Button: A brief history of corporate ethnography"

Sebastian Greger


A nice write-up of the true story of the legendary “green button” story about the first documented “design ethnography” at PARC (which claims that the green start button on today’s copying machines were invented following that study):

Lucy Suchman conducted an ethnographic study of copy machine use in the workplace. And she did make a video. BUT… She actually studied people using—or rather, failing to use—copy machines that already featured the big green buttons on them.

But the true green button study is no less relevant than the myth:

Ultimately, what the machine sees/knows/is aware of is not the same as what the user sees/knows/is aware of. The trouble arises when “design” is unaware of that divergence.

And of course, in addition to that specific insight, the myth has of course played an important role in highlighting the importance of having the social sciences involved in the design of technologies.