LISA REICHENBACH and AMY MAISH
Type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness, is reaching epidemic proportions in North America. Pharmaceutical and consumer companies alike are embracing ethnography as a means to gain insight into the condition and to meet the complex needs of diabetics. This paper explores three topics that emerged from our ethnographic work in this area. First, we discuss the contribution of ethnography towards understanding the lived experience of Type 2 diabetes. Second, we suggest Type 2 diabetes should be viewed as a meta-transition that encapsulates four types of transition, each of which is an important aspect of the diabetic experience, and which may provide critical insights in an applied context. Third, we argue that applied ethnography can be dramatically enriched by an anthropologically and theoretically informed approach, without which the experience of, and transitions within, Type 2 diabetes cannot be fully understood and the social and business benefits maximized....
LISA REICHENBACH and MAGDA WESOLKOWSKA
There is an old riddle, “What is everywhere, but invisible?”, to which the answer is “air”. But in ethnography applied within settings such as marketing and product innovation, the answer might as well be “the physical environment.” While social scientists are trained to consider informants and environment as interrelated and crucial information sources in ethnography, it nonetheless appears that all too often the environment may be underutilized in ethnography in many industry settings. This is a troublesome omission as the physical environment can be tremendously valuable to any ethnographer on the hook to find strategically relevant insights about a given target.
This paper argues for a practice of industry-oriented ethnography in which the physical environment is viewed as an informant that helps us to find insights related to our end goal of understanding human behavior, such as what is highly motivating or what creates profound tensions for informants. We advance...