Dhanabir Sharma

Digital Selves and Distributed Agency: Redefining the Subject of Ethnography

GUNES GOCABAG Independent Consultant PechaKucha Presentation Digital identities are key to almost all aspects of life today. What happens when digital identities grow beyond just being partial, one-dimensional representations of us, but become fully autonomous digital selves who can act on our behalf. Who or what will be the target for businesses trying to capture new customers, and what does that mean for our work as business anthropologists? Through practical examples, I take the audience through a thinking exercise and argue that future ethnographic practice needs to get beyond defending its own domain, open up and seek collaboration with many more disciplines that can complement our work as ethnographers. Gunes Kocabag is a researcher and strategic designer. She has worked with multi-disciplinary teams in projects across industries, and led research expeditions in Europe, Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia, to develop new services, user experiences and business models that provide sustainable value for business...

Borders and Walls: What is the Agency of Architects in Geopolitical Conflicts?

ANE GONZALEZ LARA Pratt Institute PechaKucha Presentation Boundaries and borders have generated lots of attention in the political realm of our country over the last years. The proposed Wall between the United States and Mexico has created different perspectives from architects and builders across the country. Following this debate, a question arises: What is the agency of architecture and architects in this issue? This presentation focuses on a Borders Studio taught at the University of New Mexico School of Architecture, a borderland school that draws students from both sides of the border. The studio was created after seeing how polarized and diverse the opinions about the proposed wall were among architects and builders and in order to stimulate the critical thinking abilities of the students. The studio involved a series of projects that tackled different scales. Each student found their own voice on the conflict during the semester and the studio created a platform for them to bring issues like immigration, labor...

“Resistance is Possible”: The Ethnography of Roleplaying

NATHAN LEBLANC Scoop PechaKucha Presentation Roleplaying games, such as the popular Dungeons & Dragons, ask players to take on roles of particular people and contexts. As a researcher, my experience conducting playtesting and ethnographic work for a roleplaying game on the Holocaust called “Rosenstrasse” profoundly affected me. In this PechaKucha, I ponder how roleplaying games might inspire the communication of ethnographic insight. As a medium in which storytelling isn't linear or prescribed, how can roleplaying games effectively transfer cultural understanding? Just as a Games Master and game design facilitate this knowledge transfer, perhaps ethnographers can use techniques similar to roleplaying to increase change-making by enabling greater agency in stakeholders and teammates. Nathan LeBlanc is a design researcher currently working at Scoop. He holds a BA in Anthropology and Linguistics from Grinnell College and a Masters of HCI from Carnegie Mellon University. 2019 EPIC Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...

Creative Photography through Ethnographic Research

GABRIELA OLIVEIRA INSITUM PechaKucha Presentation This is a short story of when my sides of researcher and photographer met during a trip to the rural countryside of Brazil, where I went to research about internet connectivity, but ended up learning more about human relations. Photography creates connection between people, much like ethnography, and they interlace in a deeper level than just registering of fieldwork. Visual registration of research can be as valuable as the content gathered from the conversation, and photography can enable both analysis and creativity in a researcher, by prompting him or her to train an observing eye to both content and surroundings. Thinking of photography as a tool as valuable as interviewing activates new ways for researchers to use their humanity to face ethnographic research. Gabriela Oliveira is a Brazilian research strategist based in São Paulo. gabriela.a.deoliveira@gmail.com 22019 EPIC Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...

Nangi Village: A Story of Collective Agency in the Mountains of Nepal

EMELIA RALLAPALLI Pebble Strategy PechaKucha Presentation What can a remote Himalayan community teach us about innovation? Emelia's Silicon-Valley-first-world frame of reference is the dominant lens of her work. It's the place where we buy into technology's promise to help solve the world's problems. But it's also ground zero for a dystopian future where humans are automated out of relevance. In this PechaKucha Emelia will explore the ways Nangi Village, with the help and leadership of one member in particular, is using technology and innovation to increase its collective power for its own goals of educating its young, connecting to the world, and driving its own economic development. This talk will also be a personal meditation on Nangi's impact on her own perspectives regarding human agency, problem solving, and innovation. Emelia Rallapalli Emelia is a brand strategist, researcher, and founder of Pebble Strategy. She consults for some of the world's most influential brands. emelia@pebblestrategy.com Twitter: @ERallapalli Medium:...

Data Walks into a Bar: A Love Story

TABITHA STEAGER Workday PechaKucha Presentation As a qualitative researcher, I was always a bit afraid – if not disdainful – of quantitative data. This pecha kucha tells the uneasy love story of how and why I fell in love with quantitative data. Transitioning from life as an ethnographer who avoided quantitative work at any cost, I found myself working as an applied researcher using a method that relied heavily on large amounts of quantitative data. I had to learn how to tell a story using a data format with which I was relatively unfamiliar. I was also doubtful about quantitative data and that it was often privileged over qualitative work and angry at the power it sometimes held over people's lives. However, as I began to get closer to it, I realized that I was ascribing quantitative data an agency of its own, an agency it definitely doesn't have. I moved through my doubt and ultimately came to fall deeply in love with the sweet spot that exists when we can marry qualitative and quantitative data to give voice to those...

Breaking the Language Barrier: India, The Digital Revolution and Human Agency

SHUBHANGI ATHALYE Convo Research & Strategy Pvt. Ltd STUART HENSHALL Convo Research & Strategy Pvt. Ltd PechaKucha Presentation India is pioneering the future of low and illiterate populations and as a result changing the course of AI, human agency and how we empower the next connected billion+. In a country with such a complex linguistic and demographic landscape the challenges are mammoth. However, with the sudden cheap and easy access to the internet, mobile technology is proving to be the vehicle for human agency. It is proving to be the catalyst and throwing up new tools especially for those poorly equipped to adopt. As an ethnographer I’m always struck with how the user behaves, adapts and changes to magical new tools. We go from a sense of wonder to a new form of tech literacy that will quickly surpass what they were ever able to do before. The questions posed are: How can technology reframe intention for lower literate populations? What new tools can be made available for the vernacular language users...

Adapting to the Lack of Agency: Research in Prisons

RUBEN PEREZ HUIDOBRO Shopify   PechaKucha Presentation How can a researcher adapt to the lack of agency in secure environments? HM Inspectorate of Prisons in the UK published in 2012 a thematic report about the use of the “person escort record” (PER) with detainees at risk of self-harm, highlighting the high number of deaths in custody. The PER was used during the transport of people under custody, and informed about their security and safety issues. As a result of this report, my team had the mandate to improve how security and safety risks were communicated. I needed to identify the needs and pain points of the people working on prison and court services, and I did so throughout multiple contextual research sessions. Due to the lack of agency in secured environments, I had the constant need to adapt and identify opportunities to bring to the team the information they needed. Ruben Perez Huidobro is a Senior User Experience Researcher at Shopify. He has over a decade of experience in the UX field. He has...

Ethnographic ‘Weirdness’: Attending to Indicators of the Unfamiliar

CHARLEY SCULL Filament Insight & Innovation This presentation begins with ethnographic research of an Indonesian tuna fishery in which a field partner describes unfamiliar cultural behavior as ‘weird’. Using that moment as a starting point, the paper then undertakes a reflection on the usage and meaning of the term. It explores ‘weirdness’ through a range of core tenets, like cultural relativism, empathy and ethnocentrism and then plays with the meaning of weirdness across a number of disciplinary and market lenses. The talk builds to a provocation about the ways in which ‘weird’ can serve as a call to action. It concludes that researchers should use ‘weird’ as an indicator that helps them know where they need to dig deeper, in search of empathic understanding and where they need to reconcile their biases. By doing so, the talk argues, we are giving agency to the data which we don't yet understand. Charley Scull is a visual anthropologist, ethnographer, insight strategist and UX researcher. He has worked...

Out to Dry: Change and Agency Across Urban China

ZACH HYMAN EPAM Continuum PechaKucha Presentation This PechaKucha will take the audience on an intimate, visual exploration of the evolving ways that clothing is dried outside across urban China as drying practices are forced to adapt to limitations by evolving regulation and perceptions of urban modernity. Increasingly, engaging in this social practice requires an act of agency against both municipal governments and one's own neighbors in China. While drying one's laundered clothing outdoors remains a standard part of rural life, both the legal and physical space for this practice has shrunk during China's massive urbanization. This practice is being replaced by bureaucrats’ desire to stimulate domestic consumption (of appliances, in this case) and their desire to erase from cities what is considered a visual embarrassment of laundry hanging out of windows and between buildings. Today when something in urban China needs drying outside of one's privately owned space, one must assert agency over a slice of public space: A...

Self-Ethnography: Or, How I Earned my Berkeley Citizenship in an Ethnographic Journey through the Crunchy Granola and the Scientific

BETH SCHWINDT Autodesk PechaKucha Presentation A researcher who used to combine “thinking + feeling” lines on a journey map found herself on the feelings frontier by widely exploring new innovations in neuroscience, psychology, and mind-body connection, alongside the resurgence in popularity of “old” ways of healing – chinese medicine, crystals, tarot cards. Through her self-ethnographic journey, she found that by stripping back ethnography from the measurable, the scientific, the business cases she rediscovered its foundational backbone to carefully tune into and interpret feelings. She redefines ethnography as about finding truth and not judging it – even the parts that don't make sense right away and asserts that believing the tiny fragments of feelings and glimmers of intuition is the future of our practice. The new science and the old wisdom revealed that feelings are the root of agency, or “the feelings we have a say in the world we live in and experience, and it is our new frontier to help people articulate...

Center Frame: Agency in the Lives of Researchers

BRANDY PARKER IA Collaborative PechaKucha Presentation We try to avoid being on camera, but as researchers, are we ever really out of frame? Centered around a life-changing project that had lackluster results, this piece is a meditation on our agency, or lack of agency, as researchers. Our work gives us unique glimpses into worlds no one else is privy to, and what we experience changes us. At times, the most powerful advancement of our work is in our own lives. Brandy Parker is a Senior Research & Design Strategist at IA Collaborative. With a background in ethnography, psychology, and nutrition, she brings a unique whole-person perspective to both medicine and the design world. She works at the intersection of her passions for human-centered design, research, and health care. Citation: 2019 EPIC Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...

Robots and the Fallacy of Agency

STEWART ALLEN Fuse Foresight PechaKucha Presentation What if I told you, that humans are not very special? That the very qualities that make us human are not pre-given features but are rather properties generated by our participation in the world at large. In this view, humans are not mere expressions of blueprints. Rather, we are shaped and fashioned in the course of our lives by many different environments. This presentation challenges the notion of agency itself through an exploration of a recent project we conducted on service robots and human interaction. I raise questions on the nature of our humanness and the idea of ‘humanity’ as a special, protected class. If we set aside humans as special and unique, we tend to then dehumanise and downscale everything that is non-human, setting the stage for our current malaise where our environment is objectified as a resource to be used up as quickly as possible. I conclude that a shared and sustainable world is one where the qualities of life are accorded to all things, human...

Ethnography’s Role in Seeing the AI’s Blind Spots: Living amongst AI—Agency of the Household

LAIYEE HO Delve PechaKucha Presentation Home automation has made big promises for utilizing intelligent technology to help the lives of everyday people, but the potential of the technology can only be as good as our understanding of the world we are trying to improve. In this PechaKucha, I share insights from my years of conducting ethnography in homes where families have lived alongside AI and automated technology. Our initial tries at intelligent technology in the home were modeled after our own assumptions, but it failed to account for the full variables of the ‘household’, which had an agency of its own. When technology has the potential to disrupt not only our workflows, but relationships between people in the home, it's the responsibility of technologists and ethnographers to provide the critical human perspective necessary for technology to live in harmony with people. LaiYee Ho is the co-founder of Delve (www.delvetool.com), where she pours her years of experience as a UX researcher and designer into creating...

Boundary Crossings: Collaborative Robots and Human Workers

BRUCE PIETRYKOWSKI Social Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn MICHAEL FOLSTER Behco-MRM Agency and automation is explored through three case studies of the use of Cobots – collaborative robots – in three different auto production firms. The business challenges faced by these firms include labor shortages, quality control and reduction of waste. The Cobot solution resulted in different effects on agency through (1) agency task displacement, (2) agency enhancement and (3) agency expansion. In addition, the individual characteristics of the workplace structure also mediated the effects of Cobots on agency. In the first case (Uno Motors) Fordist technology and the presence of a union ensured that Cobots were deployed instrumentally. The second case (Duo Global Technologies) was one in which Cobots were flexibly deployed to meet changing production demands. The third case (Trio) went furthest in integrating Cobots into the production process as co-workers requiring new workplace relationships together with the potential...