How Industrial Anthropology Influenced My Testing - Christian Kram

How Industrial Anthropology Influenced My Testing - Christian Kram


In this session I will shortly introduce industrial anthropology with the main focus being on four things that help me as a software tester. Industrial anthropology deals with the question "how can things that are industrially manufactured be used by humans?"

While being an industrial anthropologist my job had two core areas: Testing tangible things and collecting biometric data. I learned a lot while on that job, but four aspects stand out:

  1. Testing is ultimately about the people using something, not the customer.
  2. Know your audience!
  3. Results are nothing without interpretation.
  4. Functionality is just one aspect that lets people enjoy things. Users will use a product as a whole, so it's okay to test isolated things, but only judge these parts as a whole.

These four aspects can easily be translated to software testing.
It's easy to get trapped in the "the requirement is tested"-trap, but it's us testers that need to bring the user's perspective to the table if no one else does.

Know your audience: I changed domains from automotive to bookkeeping recently, where users have a somewhat lower computer-literacy. My approach to testing has shifted accordingly.

Explain your results: As tester we often see ourselves as information brokers. So we need to convey these information to the people making the decisions, not just a green/red light in your reporting.

Look beyond functionality: Don't just look at functional requirements. Users don't care if there has been a requirement or not on performance.

These aspects get lost easily in a tester's daily grind, so they are worth looking at from time to time.