MARIA CURY

Contributed Articles

Screenplay, Novel, and Poem: The Value of Borrowing From Three Literary Genres to Frame Our Thinking as We Gather, Analyze, and Elevate Data in Applied Ethnographic Work

MARIA CURY ReD Associates MICHELE CHANG-MCGRATH ReD Associates Applied ethnography still struggles with the fundamental challenges of (1) framing research to obtain ‘thick’ data, (2) making sense of data in teams and with clients, and (3) making a convincing case with data in challenging environments. We have observed that borrowing from literary genres can be effective in addressing these challenges. We therefore argue that in an age of data science, it is just as important to draw from the literary arts when gathering, analyzing, and elevating evidence to inspire change in applied ethnographic work. We raise three specific applications of literary genres to distinct project phases, to improve how data is collected and analyzed, and how data travels. In this paper we show: (1) how the screenplay can help solve challenges in research framing, to obtain thicker data; (2) how the novel can help solve challenges in analysis, to turn data into meaningful evidence; (3) how poetry can help solve challenges in the opportunities-development...

Applying Theory to Applied Ethnography

MARIA CURY ReD Associates DANIEL BIRD ReD Associates In applied ethnographic praxis, how should we use theory? Exploring how existing theory from a variety of domains has supported and advanced our work, this paper justifies and demonstrates how theory can be used in an accessible and practical manner when framing research and analyzing experience in the field. Two approaches for using theory are outlined, providing guidelines for different ways to apply theory to applied ethnography. Defense of such approaches is provided through both an appeal to the value we have seen it add to ethnography in industry and to a brief return to Hermeneutic ethnography, inspired by the likes of Gadamer and Geertz. The latter serves as a reminder of reasons to be skeptical that as ethnographers we uncover “the real.” Pre-existing theory provides valuable assistance when transforming an insight about the world into an idea with explanatory and predictive potential for our clients. Drawing upon theory allows us to elevate an interesting description...

Fieldnotes as a Social Practice: Elevating and Innovating Fieldnotes in Applied Ethnography, Using a Collaborative Online Tool as a Case Study

MARIA CURY ReD Associates In this paper I propose that applied ethnographers should think critically and innovatively about the practice of producing fieldnotes in ethnographic research. Critical thought on ethnographic fieldnotes has been relatively underdeveloped, both in applied and academic anthropology. Moreover, as applied ethnographers our projects have particular opportunities and constraints that are unique from academic anthropology. I make a case for elevating fieldnotes as a topic of more critical discussion in applied ethnography, and for moving fieldnotes from a private practice to a social practice. I use a collaborative online tool as a case example for possible innovation. Collaborative practices present certain vulnerabilities and challenges to creating fieldnotes, but I argue that the benefits of innovating fieldnotes help to build bridges both between researchers, and between researchers and stakeholders in a project. Innovative fieldnote practices can: deepen the thinking in our research; increase our impact; help...

Voices, not data points: building connections between clients and informants to create impact

by MARIA CURY, ReD Associates Camila sat down on her faded pink sofa, unwrapped the bandage around her calf, and showed me a violet wound, some of the skin crusty and some of it wet. Her daughter Cecilia sat on the edge of a chair in the corner, filling gaps in the story – “remember we tried a gel that inflamed your skin,” “the pharmacy down the street never gives us enough gauze.” At ReD Associates, we often work with big healthcare companies who seek more patient-centric approaches to product design, and our insights have implications on product, packaging, and patient-compliance. This project aimed to make wound care products relevant to more people by understanding how patients care for chronic wounds in emerging markets. Camila, a sixty-four year-old Brazilian patient with a venous leg ulcer, was doing everything wrong. She risked infection by putting olive oil over her calf (“I know I’m not supposed to, but it’s the only thing that takes away my pain pain pain”); she used dry gauze with wisps that stuck...