Dhanabir Sharma

Evidence Outside the Frame: Interpreting Participants’ “Framing” of Information when Using Participatory Photography

TABITHA STEAGER Pacific AIDS Network This paper discusses the benefits and challenges of participatory photography as ethnographic evidence and how as researchers we can “read” the evidence our participants create. Drawing on examples from an ethnographic study examining concepts and constructions of community on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, I examine how we can interrogate photographs as data rather than factual evidence. Adages such as “the camera doesn’t lie” support the view of photography as a purveyor of truth. Photos accompanying journalistic dispatches from far-flung outposts around the world are seen as authentic evidence of real-world situations. Amateur videos of people’s life experiences are filmed on smart phones and then posted to YouTube to be taken as authentic representations of life events. Early ethnographic uses celebrated photography as the ultimate tool for showing that anthropologists had actually “been there,” displaying the exoticism of other cultures in factual black and white....

Map Making: Mobilizing Local Knowledge and Fostering Collaboration

NORA MORALES UAM Cuajimalpa, México SALOMON GONZALEZ UAM Cuajimalpa, México Participatory mapping—the production of maps in a collective way—is a common activity used for planning and decision making in urban studies. It started as a way to empower men and women, usually from rural vulnerable communities threatened by climate change, degradation of their landfills or any other conflict related to access to their land. It has been considered a fundamental instrument to help marginal groups represent and communicate their needs within the territory and augment their capacity to protect their rights. (FIDA, 2011). Why is it that in some cases participatory mapping works and in others fails? Why do these initiatives not trigger local action? Or even end up being counterproductive, when authorities use the map made by locals, to validate their points, causing conflict instead of negotiation? As a research team of designers and social scientists involved in the creation of participatory mapping workshops, our goal was to analyze...

Empathy Is not Evidence: Four Traps of Commodified Empathy

RACHEL ROBERTSON Shopify PENNY ALLEN Shopify Product teams, including our own, often interpret empathy as evidence. However, in practice, empathy is actually something that drives us to seek evidence. By observing and evaluating various examples within Shopify, we have identified 4 traps that are common in the way empathy is manifested. We modelled the relationship between empathy, problems, evidence, and decisions to provide strategies for how to use empathy effectively while being sympathetic to its limitations. Since empathy drives us to seek evidence, and thus cannot be considered evidence itself, empathy must be used at an appropriate level of abstraction throughout the product decision-making process in order to influence good decisions....

Humans Can Be Cranky and Data Is Naive: Using Subjective Evidence to Drive Automated Decisions at Airbnb

STEPHANIE CARTER Airbnb RICHARD DEAR Airbnb Case Study—How can we build fairness into automated systems, and what evidence is needed to do so? Recently, Airbnb grappled with this question to brainstorm ways to re-envision the way hosts review guests who stay with them. Reviews are key to how Airbnb builds trust between strangers. In 2018 we started to think about new ways to leverage host reviews for decision making at scale, such as identifying exceptional guests for a potential loyalty program or notifying guests that need to be warned about poor behavior. The challenge is that the evidence available to use for automated decisions, star ratings and reviews left by hosts, are inherently subjective and sensitive to the cross-cultural contexts in which they were created. This case study explores how the collaboration between research and data science revealed that the underlying constraint for Airbnb to leverage subjective evidence is a fundamental difference between ‘public’ and ‘private’ feedback. The outcome of this integrated,...

Can I Get a Witness? The Limits of Evidence in Healthcare Quality Evaluation Systems in American Hospitals

LINDSAY FERRIS Ad Hoc, LLC NICHOLE CARELOCK Ad Hoc, LLC “I got verbals, but verbals don’t hold up in court….I need it in black and white.” After Sheila submits hospital quality data to the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), reports indicate that her data hasn’t been received. She makes countless calls to the CMS Help Desk to get answers. They reassure her numerous times that they have her data, yet Sheila is insistent that she needs to see the change explicitly stated in the report. Sheila makes it her personal crusade to obtain material evidence because only written testimony will prove that her data has been submitted successfully and protect her facility from CMS penalties. At a time when we are becoming increasingly reliant on data and technology as the ultimate bearers of truth, Sheila exemplifies how people become stewards of evidence in service to these technical systems. As she moves her facilities’ data through CMS’ error-ridden reporting system, the burden of proof is on her to provide...

Doing Ethnography in AirSpace: The Promise and Danger of ‘Frictionless’ Global Research

TOM HOY Stripe Partners ‘AirSpace’, according to Kyle Chayka, is the increasingly homogenized experience of the western(ized) business traveller, driven by major tech platforms (including Google, Airbnb and Uber.) As international travellers, ethnographers must account for the impact of AirSpace on their research practice. After delineating the concept of AirSpace the paper posits three dangers ethnographers must negotiate: (1) The cost of control: AirSpace offers researchers control, but can narrow the scope of research (2) The risk of superficiality: AirSpace provides shortcuts to cultural understanding, but can limit deeper comprehension (3) The assumption of equivalence: AirSpace provides shared reference points, but can create the illusion of equivelance with research subjects. By exploring these three dangers the paper invites readers to reflect on their own research practice and consider how to utilize the benefits of these platforms while mitigating the issues outlined....

Below the Surface of the Data Lake: An Ethnographic Case Study on the Detrimental Effect of Big Data Path Dependency at a Theme Park

JACOB WACHMANN ReD Associates ANDREAS JUNI ReD Associates DAVE BAIOCCHI ReD Associates WILLIAM WELSER IV ReD Associates Case Study—This case-study details how a team of anthropologists and a team of data scientists sought to help a Middle Eastern theme park make use of their big data platform to measure ‘the good customer experience’. Ethnographic research within the theme park revealed that visitors yearned to bond with the other members of their group, as they rarely got the chance during their busy everyday lives back home. However, trying to build a measurement of how the theme park delivered on bonding – through the development of a ‘bonding index’ – turned out to be unfeasible, because the big data platform focused on capturing operational data. The decision to focus on operational data had unintentionally created a path dependency that made the big data setup unfit for answering some of the theme park’s most fundamental questions. This is a problem ReD Associates has observed across clients and to solve it this...

Revitalising Openness at Mozilla: A Mixed Method Research Approach

RINA TAMBO JENSEN Mozilla Case Study—This is a case about how Mozilla, the open source browser company, set out to reconnect with ‘collaborating in the open’ to regain its competitive advantage. This case describes how a multi-disciplinary research team used ethnographic, market, and data analysis to articulate and clarify the problem, and build a strategy towards revitalizing Openness at Mozilla. It will aim to prove that the subsequent change achieved could only have been accomplished by a mixed method research approach. And importantly show, how the team used data to prove the distribution of findings, coupled with ethnography to shine light on the why and how of those findings. The case study will do this by discussing the key insights and how these fueled recommendation and subsequent change in the organisation. The project presented many problems: from convincing stakeholders of the need to fully explore the problem, to connecting widely different research methods and gleaning insights that built strongly on all strands...

Reading the Tea Leaves: Ethnographic Prediction as Evidence

CLAIRE MAIERS WillowTree, Inc. Those who work in research know that we live in a world that is strongly influenced by what Tricia Wang has called the quantification bias. More so than other forms of information, numbers have incredible formative power. In our culture, numbers are seen as trustworthy representations of reality that are strongly associated with objectivity and untainted by human bias and shortcomings. Recently, data science, big data, algorithms, and machine learning have fueled a new wave of the quantification bias. One of the central fascinations of this wave has been the promise that humans now have the power of prediction at their fingertips. In this paper, I reflect on what it means to make predictions and explore the differences in how predictions are accomplished via quantitative modeling and ethnographic observation. While this is not the first time that ethnographic work has been put in conversation and in contrast with quantified practices, most theorists have framed the role of ethnography as providing context...

Life and Death of Evidence: The role of digital interactions during Mexico’s earthquake

FRANCISCO JAVIER PULIDO RAMIREZ INSITUM PechaKucha Presentation Social media played a fundamental role on Mexico's earthquake, it bring us new solutions but created some other problematics that were unexpected. Millions of users shared their experiences faster than any other traditional media but the use and abuse of their evidence impacted the way we faced the crisis. Earthquakes are extreme case scenarios where social medias couldn't forecast the different consequences of their design decisions that impacts people's lifes. As producers of contents, all our evidence is storage on the digital sphere, always available, unchangeable, static, waiting to be rescue for interpretation. Most of the evidence that generate chaos after the earthquake happened because they were digitally alive, being shared over and over without control, for hours and days and when it finally reach you it was no longer useful. But on a scenario where temporality is crucial and minutes can define life or death, should we kill our evidences in pro for a better...