Surveillance, Technology, and American Conceptions of Freedom
MIKE GRIFFIN Amazon This paper traces the role of ideology in shaping the beliefs and situated knowledge used by information technology and security managers to make sense of and justify systems of surveillance they oversee. In particular, the analysis explores the role of the contested meanings of the ideology of ‘freedom’ as an important resource in this process of meaning construction, providing a ground-level account of the process of interpellation, described by Louis Althusser as the subjectification of individuals by ideology made available from dominant discourse....
Knee Deep in the Weeds—Getting Your Hands Dirty in a Technology Organization
TIFFANY ROMAINRicoh Innovations CorporationMIKE GRIFFINRicoh Innovations Corporation For many months our organization had us performing “technical grunt work.” Upon reflection, getting deep into our company's technological system put us in the unique position of understanding, at a much finer level of detail, the entire assemblage of people, objects, systems, and organizations that make up the world that this technology is becoming a part of. Our paper recounts how we eventually recognized our engagement in technological grunt work as participant observation and how it enabled us to better contribute to decisions about how the technology should work, present itself to users, and be sold. Further, we reflect on an expanded notion of what constitutes the field and fieldwork in corporate ethnography....
On Empathy, and Not Feeling It
TIFFANY ROMAINRicoh Innovations TRACY PILAR JOHNSONNurun MIKE GRIFFINRicoh Innovations Recently Tracy was asked whether a plan to have everyone in the office go about their day with an “impairment” would be a good way to “practice empathy” and learn more about assistive technology usage. Her response was that while wearing prosthetics demonstrates the shock of becoming impaired, it is questionable what it reveals about living a full life with an impairment. “Empathy” is getting around, especially in the worlds of design thinking, start-ups, and technology. But in these varied contexts, what does empathy really mean? Such questions led us to explore empathy as a method, attribute, and commodity, in turn raising more questions. When we generate and spread “empathy,” are we participating in creating a veneer of care that obscures tensions between consumers and businesses, and ultimately, value extraction? If so, can we improve how we inspire the corporate imagination, and the ends to which that imagination...
Ethnography, Storytelling, and the Cartography of Knowledge in a Global Organization: How a Minor Change in Research Design Influenced the Way Our Team Sees, and is Seen by Our Organization.
JAY DAUTCHER and MIKE GRIFFIN Our team unites qualitative researchers, designers, and prototyping engineers to investigate workplace technologies using a four-step process: ethnography, analysis, intervention, measurement. Projects develop in relation to the needs of internal corporate units identified as project stakeholders. An experiment with a more ethnography-centered research approach, conducted without a specific internal sponsor, led us to develop findings we believed could benefit many groups in our organization—designers, product teams, salespeople, corporate strategists—but presented us with some unfamiliar challenges. First, we needed new storytelling and social media tools to disseminate our message. Second, we needed a way to find out who, in our organization of 75,000 globally distributed employees, might value our findings. In response, we initiated an internal project investigating and mapping out social networks of knowledge exchange and strategic influence in our company. We foresee using this strategy map to...
Techno|theory Deathmatch: An Agonistic Experiment in Theory and Practice
JAY DAUTCHER, MIKE GRIFFIN, TIFFANY ROMAIN and EUGENE LIMB Theories about humans and their relationships with technology are part of a lifeworld shared by many corporate ethnographers, although individuals’ practices for engaging with theory can vary considerably due to factors such as disciplinary training and workplace norms. Within the EPIC community the perception of a constrained relationship between theory and corporate ethnographic praxis has emerged as a matter of concern. This paper recounts our experiment with bringing theory into daily work by designing and playing a game that had us adopt the personas of theorists while engaging in rhetorical combat, competing to surface insights relevant to an ongoing technology development project. Each phase, from initial game design, through prototyping play, to the final event, supported our collective practice of theory, brought to light hidden assumptions about the role of theory in our work, and provided actionable value to our daily work activities....