EPIC2015

The premier international gathering on ethnography & design in the business world

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Perspectives

Digital Favelas: What Cities of Tomorrow Can Learn from the Slums of Today ~ David Nemer

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Digital Favelas: What Cities of Tomorrow Can Learn from the Slums of Today

by David Nemer, Indiana University Favelas are the urban slums of Brazil. Slums—the image is already filling your mind—are marginalized areas of society without state investments, without basic needs: infrastructure, sanitation, road systems, health, education. They also lack access to information and communication technologies (ICTs). Why, then, are they important places for studying “advanced” topics like technology, knowledge economy, and sociotechnical practices? What could they have to teach us? Outsiders often see favela residents as “untamed” and digitally illiterate. But during eight months of ethnographic fieldwork in the slums of Brazil, I saw people challenging the notion of “resource poverty,”…

Data, Data, Everywhere, but Who Gets to Interpret It?

by Dawn Nafus, Intel There has been a good deal of discussion of the relationship between the EPIC community and new practices of big data. Will the data scientists have the final word on what people value? Are we ethnographers effectively getting disrupted by cheaper and worse data? In a wider sense, what kind of a culture would we live in when stories of lived experience get increasingly sidestepped in favor of a newly re-empowered aggregate? Story would surely still matter, but the population of people in any position to tell stories with data would narrow drastically. This is not…

Satin Island: An Appreciation

by Alexandra Mack, Pitney Bowes I will admit that as soon as I heard there was a newly published novel about a corporate anthropologist, I took the bait and grabbed a copy (metaphorically, of course, given that I in fact downloaded an e-book). How would my world and my work be represented in fiction? What truths or myths might be relayed to the reading public? And fundamentally, would I find it an enjoyable read? As I started this beautifully written book by Tom McCarthy, I realized I had to shift my expectations, and in so doing found many truths, not…

Ethnography for Smart Service Systems in Product Design

by William O. Beeman, Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota In today’s rapidly changing, highly competitive world, product design requires swift translation of human needs and desires into technical specifications for the development of devices and services that meet those needs (Salvador et al. 2013). This calls for a complex integration of qualitative and quantitative data. But despite some notable successes, product design failures are today both extensive and expensive (Anonymous 2015), consuming enormous amounts of time and human labor. Any improvement to the process of product design would be of great public benefit. Many “smart systems” approaches to the…

Digital Living and Sensory Perception: Implications for Ethnography and Design

by Sarah Pink, RMIT University As an ethnographer working at the interface of theory and praxis, I frame my research by the need to understand the sensory and digital environments in which we live. Approaching the world through the prism of the digital and sensory offers us a novel and effective way of engaging with contemporary social and environmental challenges – like those relating to energy, safety or privacy – which are also challenges for industry. But why these particular turns to the digital and the sensory? And why now? Every few years ethnography gets caught up in a new…