I recently came across an old Financial Times review for a book about a man who – curious to see the world from his two-year-old daughter’s perspective – strapped a tiny camcorder to her forehead and let her roam free, chronicling the business of being a toddler.
Watching her footage after several days, the author marveled at things like how much time she spent inspecting her feet and looking at herself in front of the mirror.
Lately I’ve been looking at my own children and family members and friends and wondering, if we all conducted this same little experiment together, what would we learn about each other and marvel at? What insights could we gather to help us understand each other that much more and make the business of life a little easier?
And on a larger scale, as social marketers, what if we gave tiny camcorders to the people whose lives we’re trying to change and health behaviors we’re trying to improve? More than focus groups or in-depth interviews or even ethnographic observation, what could “a day in the life” teach us about the ex-smoker who is now a chewer, about the woman who – despite her family history – doesn’t get tested regularly for skin cancer, or about the young, otherwise healthy, professional who just learned she has to live with and manage diabetes?
I imagine some honest and unedited self-documentation would reveal some very real complexities that can’t be put into words, can’t be explained in a report – and can only be understood by the literal and proverbial “putting yourself in another’s shoes.” Watching my own family and friends, I would imagine that a little raw footage would show: the chewer is overwhelmingly bored; the mole-y woman considers herself much too busy to get tested, even though she thinks about it every morning; and the young professional’s biggest fear about diabetes is giving herself insulin shots because she’s scared to death of needles. But I don’t know. I wonder if I had all these people over for dinner, if they’d let me strap tiny cameras onto their foreheads to find out…