EPIC2015

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

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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…

Sensemaking Methodology: A Liberation Theory of Communicative Agency

by Peter Jones, OCAD University, Toronto [this is one of two posts on sensemaking; see also the companion piece Sensemaking in Organizations by Laura McNamara] I’ve seen a lot of methodology fashion come and go. Before completing a doctorate that really anchored my work in ethnography, I was trained as a cognitive psychologist, designing and evaluating user experience for software and information technology. Since the 1980s, I’ve watched methodologies emerge, some becoming fads and others disappearing from the canon. I’ve learned and applied methods consistent with the theoretical commitments and practices of a methodology. My experience with sensemaking methodology has…

Standards of Practice for Ethnography in Industry

by Allen W. Batteau, Wayne State University, & Robert J. Morais, Weinman Schnee Morais, Inc. Ethnography is at a crossroads. A methodology that was once the exclusive preserve of anthropologists, with its precursors found among a few colonial administrators, intrepid explorers, Indian agents, and their academic advisors, and, at least in the eyes of anthropologists, “owned” by anthropology, has in the past fifty years been embraced by numerous academic disciplines including sociology, education research, design research, and management studies. The founding and ten-year growth of the EPIC conference is recognition within numerous quarters that ethnography matters. Central to EPIC is…

Sensemaking in Organizations: Reflections on Karl Weick and Social Theory

by Laura A. McNamara, Sandia National Laboratories [this is one of two posts on sensemaking; see also the companion piece Sensemaking Methodology by Peter Jones] Sensemaking is a term that gets thrown around a lot without much consideration about where the concept came from or what it really means. If sensemaking theory is democratizing, that’s good thing. Most anthropologists recognize that ethnography is a joint co-creation with our interlocutors. Our accounts, as well as the theory, framework and methods underlying those accounts, should be accessible to the people who help us create them. Sociologists recognize this principle, too: in his…