Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Q&A with Robin Kwong


Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m neither an ethnographer nor a researcher, but found my way to the EPIC community through a curiosity about organisational culture and how to help people work better together. These days, I help news organisations adapt to a changing digital landscape, and, in my spare time, I explore the intersection of art and journalism.

Why did you say ‘yes’ to being on an EPIC committee?

The EPIC community was so welcoming when I attended my first conference, and I learnt so much from the sessions over the years, that I want to give back and help make the conference as good as possible.

When you think about the best proposals you read, what really made them stand out?

I reviewed the case studies this year, and the best proposals all did a great job at changing the frame of reference. Case studies are invariably about a particular project or piece of research, but the best proposals are able to link that project either to a broader issue, question or framework, or alternatively, they are able to zoom in to the specific people, challenges, and circumstances encountered by the researchers.

Is there a particular talk you’re looking forward to?

I’m really excited about the new Wildcard category at this year’s EPIC. In particular, I’m looking forward to Zosha Warpeha’s talk on preservation through innovation

Is this your first EPIC? What are you looking forward to at EPIC2022?

This will be my third EPIC. I’m really looking forward to EPIC2022 being back in person, which also means that the always-excellent conference dinner will be back.

What would you like to say to people who are considering coming to EPIC for the first time?

EPIC is a welcoming community, so don’t be shy about introducing yourself and meeting new people. I attended my first EPIC as a non-ethnographer who didn’t know anybody at the conference. I had no idea what to expect, but I managed to make some good friends and had some really wonderful conversations at the conference.

If you could recommend a book/article/podcast to our community, what would you recommend and why?

I recently finished (and highly recommend) Simon Robert’s The Power of Not Thinking: Why We Should Stop Thinking and Start Trusting Our Bodies. It has a personal significance because journalism traditionally assumes that people act and learn rationally. It prizes a detached, objective way of informing people about the world. Simon’s book cogently argues for why that is insufficient, and charts alternative ways for people to engage and learn about the world that, I think, journalism can draw a lot from.

EPIC2022 explores resilience, the ability to learn, adapt and evolve with adversity and changing conditions. Who should flex, resist, or adapt? What should be restored, abandoned, or reinvented? Resilience highlights the systemic, interconnected nature of disruption and survival—how organizations, products, services, communities, and our own work can be designed to learn, adapt and evolve.



Robin Kwong, Wall Street Journal

Robin Kwong is New Formats Editor at the Wall Street Journal in New York and a member of the EPIC2022 Case Studies Committee.