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

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Remembering Brigitte Jordan


This week we lost a pioneer of ethnography in business and a treasured member of our community. Brigitte “Gitti” Jordan’s professional contributions were tremendous and she was a tireless advocate for ethnographic practice and anthropological insights in the workplace, in organizations, and beyond. Mention Gitti’s name in the EPIC community and you are sure to get a smile and a story. Gitti provoking a spirited debate over “business ethnography” or “ethnography in business” on the way to the airport in Tokyo after EPIC2010. Gitti launching into conversation with a straight-up “look, guys, that’s not how it is…” then making elegant arguments for the lives of everyday folks. Mention her name and many people will say…

Applied Semiotics: Embracing Strategic Thinking and Fostering Innovation


I am an anthropologist and a semiotician. “A semio-what?” I have a set of answers to that question, ranging from ‘I explore meanings in culture’ to ‘I discover the subconscious cultural patterns we all use to find meaning around us, to understand how something makes sense to someone’. Sometimes the conversation turns to the lovely weather we’re having. But most people are interested and want to know more, because semiotics is one of the most powerful research methodologies to engage with strategic thinking and innovation. Why is semiotics, once an esoteric methodology, becoming an essential approach to innovation challenges? The…

Quantified, behind the Scenes


by Dawn Nafus, Intel Corporation *Join Dawn Nafus on September 1 when she hosts Ethnography & Quantified Self at EPIC2016. A few years ago, a colleague had asked me about the adoptability of biosensors—a rapidly evolving category of sensors that detect an ever-expanding array of stuff about the body or the environment. Water quality, air quality, hormones, temperature, microbiomes are increasingly possible to measure with consumer-grade devices and services. He had seen how medical sensing technologies had become smaller and cheaper, increasingly reworked into consumer devices for use outside of clinical settings. How much appetite would there be for an expanded reperotoire…

Design as a Cultural System

murphy square chair

by Keith M. Murphy, University of California Irvine I don’t think I’m supposed to admit this, at least not publicly, but it’s true: talking about design drives me to drink. Not literally of course (I’m a teetotaler!), but metaphorically. Why? Because design itself isn’t really a single term, but a collection of homonyms, each of which bears some semantic resemblance to the others, but all of which cover rather different terrain. When we talk about design, we tend to assume we’re all really talking about The Same Thing, even if we’re not, and this contributes to a fair amount of cross-talk…

Ethnographies of Future Infrastructures

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy copy

by Laura Forlano, IIT Institute of Design Article 4 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives On April 1, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced a $317 million federally funded initiative in textile innovation and manufacturing—a national consortium of public and private organizations to be led by MIT. It’s only the most recent project of the Obama administration’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, a major effort to re-invigorate the American economy. This ambitious initiative to build manufacturing infrastructure nationwide plans an initial network of 45 Manufacturing Innovation Institutes over 10 years. Led by non-profit organizations, the institutes partner universities,…