Anthropological theory deepens and extends the impact of ethnography, adding significant value to the companies, organizations and communities we work with. Because professionals who use and execute ethnography in business come to the job from varying backgrounds, many ethnographers are seeking to extend their training in theory and research. And when we do engage more deeply with theory, many of us find that the epistemologies that drive research in business contexts are often in tension with anthropological understandings of research, knowledge, data, and evidence. As anthropologists working in a corporate setting, we sometimes struggle to reconcile these tensions and maintain an anthropological perspective in the rush of everyday productivity and work objectives. In this tutorial, participants collectively explored what we saw as foundational theoretical perspectives that, historically, have shaped ethnographic method.
ELISA OREGLIA and KATHI KITNER
In rural China and India, a fragmented commercial distribution system and the lack of online shopping can significantly limit the range of consumer choice. In this paper, we look at the role that mobile phone shopkeepers—the middlemen—play in influencing what users can and will buy, but also in training them in using and understanding technology....
KATHI KITNER, RENEE KURIYAN and SCOTT D. MAINWARING
This paper will examine the social factors that mediate technology adoption among the emerging middle class in order to show how messaging, positioning, and targeting communications to potential consumers, if based on flawed representations, such as the First Time Buyer, can lead to missed market opportunities, or worse. We advocate an alternative approach based on ethnographic frameworks that can help to gauge the social viability of products, deconstructing these assumptions and notions to help smooth the path of technology adoption in emerging markets. To represent our findings, we created a “tool,” the “Social Viability Measure (SVM),” to help private industry and others approach new markets by bringing an understanding of social forces into the strategic planning, messaging and positioning of products....
DAWN NAFUS, ROGERIO DE PAULA, KATHI KITNER, RENEE KURIYAN and SCOTT D. MAINWARING
This paper documents the beginnings of Intel’s recently launched Consumerization project, and uses these early experiences as a way into exploring new paths to business relevance and impact. These paths weave in and out of the increasingly institutionalized position of corporate ethnography as research that takes place before products are designed. These paths are one response to wider transformations in the business environment, and are not a general prescription, “ethnography should now do X in corporations.” However, this project does embody a significant move away from past modalities of conducting and applying research, and in doing so reveals broader possibilities for ethnography that may prove viable for others in different contexts. We begin by providing some institutional history and exploring the wider industry transformations that compelled us to design a research project in the way that we did. The paper goes on to describe our approach...