Intelligences

The best collection of global expertise in ethnography in business, including papers, PechaKucha, keynotes, tutorials and video.

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EPIC2016 Proceedings & Video

The leading online collection of peer-reviewed work on ethnography in business just got bigger! We’ve added 32 articles and 57 videos from EPIC2016—now you can access over 350 free articles. Here’s how: Search (full text), read, download, and share individual articles HERE. Access is FREE—please sign in or create a free account. Download the entire EPIC2016 Proceedings in one PDF file HERE (15 MB). Past years are HERE. Become a Member to access our video collection of 136 conference presentations, including Keynotes, Tutorials, Papers, Case Studies, and PechaKucha. More Resources: Perspectives—our outstanding blog Job Board—find or post regular or freelances…

Empathy as Faux Ethics

adbusters image with text "me, myself, I"

by Thomas Wendt, Surrounding Signifiers “The term ‘empathy’ has provided a guiding thread for a whole range of fundamentally mistaken theories concerning man’s [sic] relationship to other human beings and to other beings in general.” —Martin Heidegger Popular design discourse is full of articles, books, and conference presentations on the role of empathy in design. In both commercial and non-commercial settings, most designers argue the same thing: designers should attempt to build empathy for “users” so they can better design for them. But empathy as it’s generally practiced ultimately subverts its own goals. It tends to reinforce “otherness”, promote anthropocentrism,…

Why Venture Capital Needs Ethnographers: Making Meaningful Innovation in the Startup Sphere

The DEMO Conference

by Julia Katherine Haines, Google Innovation in the startup world is broken. Startups say their aim is “disruption”—a riff on Christensen’s definition, but much less precise. “Disruption” has been appropriated by startups to mean doing something that has widespread, radical impact. They are about “changing the world.” They’re obsessed with the concept…but are failing on their own terms. Unless you believe “changing the world” means doing “the things your mom no longer goes for you” (Arieff 2016). There are services that deliver beer to your door. Services that deliver X to your mailbox every Y months (razors, underwear, dinner kits).…

Sustainability and Ethnography in Business: Identifying Opportunity in Troubled Times

by Mike Youngblood, The Youngblood Group Sustainability—we’re hearing this word a lot these days, even in business (if not, depressingly, in Trump Tower). It’s probably something readers of this post all generally support, and it’s definitely something we’re all connected to in one way or another. Whether we work in tech, consumer goods, education, government, or any other field, it’s pretty easy to see how the products, services, and organizations we serve affect larger social and environmental issues. For most of us in the EPIC community, however, sustainability isn’t in our job descriptions. So how should we understand and act…

“It’s just watching. But it’s billable”: The Challenges and Possibilities of Design Ethnography in Practice

by AnneMarie Dorland, University of Calgary Design ethnography—the term rings with power and potential. Now widely promoted on design studio and agency websites as a core capability, it suggests the melding of design-thinking and interpretive analytical approaches to understanding how people create and make sense of their worlds. But behind the pitch, what are designers doing when they do ethnography? How do they understand the research work they do, their field, their data? When I ask designers about how they conduct ethnography, I hear things like, “It’s just watching them, but it’s billable.” Or, “Oh the Jane Goodall thing! We…