Case Study—We consider new expectations for ethnographic observation and sensemaking in the next 20-25 years, as technology industry ethnographers' work unfolds in the increasing presence of the type of analytical capabilities specially trained (and self-training) machines can do ‘better’ and ‘cheaper’ than humans as they can take in, analyze and model digital data at much higher volumes and with an attention to nuance not achievable through human cognition alone. We do so by re-imagining three of our existing ethnographic research projects with the addition of very specific applications of machine learning, computer vision, and Internet of Things sensing and connectivity technologies. We draw speculative conclusions about: (1) how data in-and-of-the world that drives tech innovation will be collected and analyzed, (2) how ethnographers will approach analysis and findings, and (3) how the evidence produced by ethnographers will be evaluated and validated....
PechaKucha—Our homes are becoming instrumented glass houses where even the most intimate and personal acts may leave data footprints that companies providing services (and potentially others) can access. As homes become instrumented with data-generating technologies, existing information boundaries will be tested, and householders will take on the burden of creating new boundaries on information about their homes lives. Existing low-tech methods of obfuscating activities will no longer suffice. As ethnographers working on smart home solutions, we wonder: what information about which daily activities and home conditions will make householders uncomfortable living in glass houses? Who do people imagine will be looking through those glass facades, and what do they worry about them ‘seeing’? Even when the activities they consider sensitive are self-described as ‘normal’, how do we design smart home solutions so...
ALEXANDRA ZAFIROGLU and ASHWINI ASOKAN
In this paper, we explore how biographies of domestic objects are intertwined with the personal biographies of their owners and caretakers, narratives of household formation, and the life cycle of the family, and how we position the value of this work to business planners and engineers at Intel Corporation. By being curious and interested in objects in people’s homes and listening carefully to the narratives people tell about them, we create moving pictures of culturally-inflected constructions of individuals’ and groups’ lifecycles which in turn demonstrates how ‘objects’ are not ‘objective’, but always constituted and given meaning through relationships with and among people. At Intel Corporation, understanding life cycle transitions mediated by domestic objects deepens our knowledge both of technology in domestic spaces and of our current and potential customers and is an integral part of the development of technologies that enable experiences people will value....
SUSAN FAULKNER and ALEXANDRA ZAFIROGLU
Participant-generated, self-made videos engender powerful, often highly emotional, reactions from viewers who experience a stronger connection and identification with participants and their experiences than we have ever achieved with researcher-shot footage. Reactions have ranged from shock, discomfort, and offers of Freudian psychological analyses to laughter, immediate recognition and discovery. Through several video examples from recent fieldwork we explore the reasons for this heightened reaction, and raise questions related to representation, authenticity, intimacy and the role of the ethnographer in the age of YouTube, social networking sites, and reality TV. What is the ethnographer’s role when participants share their lives in videos we request that are stylistically similar to online user-generated content? What is that ethnographer’s ‘Do’, and what role does she play in editing, framing and presenting these videos? How do participants conceptualize what they are creating?...