Michael Berthin

User Researcher, WB Games Montreal Inc.


Dr. Berthin went to the Kansai area on a Japan Foundation fellowship from 2008-2009 and researched fieldwork at Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) in Kyoto and Muchu Independent Living Center in Osaka.

I conducted ethnographic fieldwork among researchers designing and constructing advanced social robots, and among disabled people involved in the independent living movement. My research looked at the intersection between the design and the use of technology in Japan, particularly how barriers can be construed as either in the body or in the environment, and what that entails for technology. Being in Japan was crucial for my research because Japan is at the forefront of robot development in the world, and Japan has specific histories of disability and care that distinguish it from other countries in the world.

Aside from focusing on his own research, Dr. Berthin met up with a few other Japan Foundation fellows in Japan and found it fascinating to hear about the various research avenues that different scholars were pursuing. He also took part in local festivals and even helped to carry the mikoshi in a small town in Ehime. Today, Dr. Berthin applies his academic background in video game research.

The Japan Foundation fellowship was fundamental for allowing me to conduct my ethnographic fieldwork that ultimately led to my Ph.D. I now work in User Research for video games, which likewise sits at the interaction between technology, design intent, and use. Since that time I’ve had the experience of working on a number of major video game franchises (Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat) from the perspective of a user researcher, applying my background in social science methods and social perspectives of technology.