In addition to some much needed acerbic wit at Saturday afternoon's panel discussion, Intel's Wendy March gave a refreshing and thoughtful 40 minute lecture on design research that opened a few eyes. Drawing on several years of investigation into the way people use technology in India, Brazil, China, and dozens of other disparate environments, she focused not on the exciting and cutting-edge, but on the ordinary.
It's a remarkable angle, and made for a compelling argument that the design that has the greatest impact is that which addresses the ordinary, boring activities that usually escape the notice of researchers and product developers.
One example supporting this: Interviewing a Japanese housewife about how she spends money, it turns out she takes a wad of cash with her every week and physically deposits it in three bank accounts in three different banks. Asked about online banking, she explained that it was too expensive, and too easy -- the walking and depositing was integral to the way she managed her money. "We keep trying to make things seamless and easy," observed March about this discovery, "but maybe people don't want it to be seamless and easy."