Jennifer Collier Jennings

EPIC2019 Gallery

Gallery installations at EPIC2019 evoked multi-modal experiences of ethnographic practice—written, oral, visual, three-dimensional, interactive, critical, reflective. These creative projects offered conference attendees diverse experiences of agency and ethnography. The conference committee made an open call for proposals and selected installations through anonymous review. Gallery Committee Chair: ANJA MAERZ, Babylon Health Carolina Amiguet, Google MAKALÉ FABER CULLEN, Urban Soils Institute ANNA HICKEY-MOODY, RMIT University SHEILA PONTIS, Princeton University WAFA SAID MOSLEH, University of Southern Denmark Installations The Ethno-graphic Sensibility, Jamie McPike & Diana Graizbord Socially Informed Policy and Planning for AV Mobility in Rhode Island, Kate Fisher Agency via Avatar Emotions in Virtual Reality, Ayfer Gokalp & Jacqueline Pospisil Office Humour, James O’Neill, Francesco Pini & Frauke Hein What Are Memories Made of?, Hema Malini Waghray Debris, Daria Loi & Heather McGeachy...

Tech Colonialism Today

EPIC2019 Keynote Address, Providence, Rhode Island SAREETA AMRUTE, Director of Research, Data & Society; Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Washington Studies on the social effects of computing have enumerated the harms done by AI, social media, and algorithmic decision-making to underrepresented communities in the United States and around the globe. I argue that the approaches of enumerating harms and arguing for inclusion have to be unsettled. These approaches, while important, frame populations as victims whose existence is dominated by and divided from centers of power. We lack a structural analysis of how these harms fit into a larger social economic pattern. I ask us to consider instead whether all of these harms add up to computing technologies today being one of the largest aspects of a colonial relationship today. Using historical evidence, the talk will consider what makes something ‘colonial’ to begin with, and then weigh corporate computing’s relationship with the world to gauge whether...

Distant Cousins? Minds, Bodies and Machines

EPIC2019 Keynote Address, Providence, Rhode Island SIMON ROBERTS, Co-founder, Stripe Partners It was several centuries ago that the body was spirited out of conversations about intelligence. The mind-body dualism continues to exert strong influence on the world today—in fields as diverse as education, marketing, politics and technology. The Enlightenment, the industrial revolution and now AI and automation have all, in their own ways, sanctified the mind and downgraded the body. Yet a host of disciplines from beyond anthropology and philosophy, such as neuroscience and cognitive science, are now concurring with the idea that the body is more than just the locus of our experience of the world. As the idea of embodied cognition holds, the body is the source of, and a condition for, our intelligence. Indeed, the recent rapid advances in AI and robotics have been made in large part due to this turn towards the idea of the embodied mind. The body is at the heart of human capabilities like pattern recognition, adaptability,...

Agency and Innovation

EPIC2019 Panel, Providence, Rhode Island Moderator: DAWN NAFUS, Senior Researcher, Intel Labs Panelists: MELISSA CEFKIN, Principal Researcher, Alliance Innovation Lab Silicon Valley MICHAEL LITTMAN, Professor of Computer Science & Co-Director of the Humanity Centered Robotics Initiative, Brown University CLAPPERTON CHAKANETSA MAVHUNGA, Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society, MIT HELI RANTAVUO, Senior Insights Manager, Growth Opportunities Mission, Markets Business Unit, Spotify Robotics, machine learning, and other technologies are provoking new hopes and fears about human agency. Tropes of the charismatic lone innovator, whether hero or villain, are also starting to lose popular currency. When we acknowledge that the agents of the built world are not just people who call themselves “innovators” but are made up of many kinds of people, and physical materials, new questions arise. How do issues of responsibility, accountability, attribution, and even regulation get solved in situations of distributed...

Representation & Representative-ness

EPIC2019 Panel, Providence, Rhode Island Moderator: DONNA LANCLOS, Anodyne Anthropology LLC Panelists: AUTUMN SANDERS FOSTER, Founder, Quire Consulting AMBER HAMPTON GREENE, Experience Research & Service Design, Cityblock Health JORDAN KRAEMER, Research Associate, Implosion Labs, LLC RUCHIKA MUCHHALA, Consultant/Filmmaker, Third Kulture Media Ethnographers take pride in representing people’s voices with fidelity, empathy, and deep contextual understanding. But our work can end up reinforcing a distinction between people who “have experience” that we study for insights and people who “have expertise” to use, shape, and monetize that experience. We’ll tackle a range of core questions: As organizations increasingly value representations of “user” or “customer” experience, what responsibilities come with this role? To what extent are we confronting the ways that the anthropologist on the project gets used to distancing people from their own expertise about their everyday lives? When we present...

Reconceptualizing Privacy

EPIC2019 Panel, Providence, Rhode Island Moderator: KEN ANDERSON, Principal Researcher, Intel Corporation Panelists: LIZ KENESKI, Head of Privacy Research, Facebook Inc. PETER LEVIN, Principal Researcher, Autodesk ELENA O’CURRY, Senior User Researcher, Uber JEFF SOKOLOV, Designer & Researcher, IBM Watson Health Algorithmic systems are increasingly integrated into the physical and digital infrastructures of our lives. The borders of privacy are being pushed and redefined, provoking new debate about what privacy is. All corporations claim privacy is important, but what does that mean? Panelists will consider what privacy might look like or mean when individuals are tied into multiple networks, both human and AI. KEN ANDERSON, panel chair, is an anthropologist, who is a Principal Engineer in Next Generation Standards at Intel Corporation. He does pathfinding at the intersection of technology, strategy, and the human experience to drive towards creating technology that enables us to have richer relationships,...

Reflexive Interviewing for Consumer Insights

An EPIC Talk with ZEYNEP ARSEL, Concordia University April 14, 2020, 11:00 am Pacific Time (UTC -7) This online event is free for EPIC Members Overview In-depth interviews are an essential resource for consumer insights and can inform product and service design, brand management, human-technology interface, customer service, amongst others. Nothing gets to the heart…

Back to the Future with Video Sociality: Rethinking Tech Commercialization and Design

by PATRICIA G. LANGE, California College of the Arts Once upon a time, a video-sharing site called YouTube was born. It greatly helped non-professional creators to post videos to the web. The platform initially broadcast diverse voices and eventually became a major competitor in the online video streaming space. The story of YouTube often begins and ends with the assumption that it achieved its destiny—that the YouTube we have now is the only YouTube that was ever possible. It feels inevitable that an up-and-coming video sharing site would commercialize. This common story of technological development and commercialization masks multiple desires that YouTubers envisioned for expressing the self and accomplishing society. Ultimately, it reduces our ability to imagine new frameworks for facilitating interaction with video. But there are alternative narratives. Other stories—particularly those told from users’ perspectives—matter because they help us understand how complex technical systems may be shaped to better serve...

Making Productivity Social Again: Melissa Gregg’s Counterproductive—Time Management in the Knowledge Economy

by RAYMOND JUNE, Workday Most of us struggle with managing our time while feeling perpetually swamped with work. White-collar professionals, myself included, have often turned like supplicants to time management tools ranging from self-help books to productivity software to maximize efficiency in less time. Confession: I once purchased a paper pocket guide to improving time management when feeling anxious about workplace performance pressures before the start of a new job. Despite its familiar and well-worn exhortations – set goals, track your time, create to-do lists, manage emails, develop routines, delegate – I clung to the belief that this manual among the surfeit of how-to texts and apps out there would be the one to help boost my productivity. My preemptive attempt at mastering time to reach peak personal performance raises a key question about today’s productivity-obsessed work culture: What, really, is the larger goal of work when the search for time-saving measures in the pursuit of productivity is its given ethos and...

Accelerating User Research: How We Structure Insights for Speed At Spotify

by SARA BELT, Spotify Instead of asking how we can further speed up research itself, the question becomes how we can better integrate research into the product development practice and speed up organizations’ ability to learn and iterate overall. For many years, insights was seen as peripheral to product development because of the perception that user research had low validity. I spent the first part of my career advocating for why teams should systematically listen to the people using their products, why anyone should trust qualitative insight to guide their decisions, and why research is a field of practice that requires specialized skills. Debates about validity have diminished as the research practice has gradually proven its ability to contribute value. Approaching product making from the perspective of data, evidence, and empathy is pretty much a given these days. In companies such as Spotify, the pendulum has swung the other way, where growth in demand for research has pushed us to scale the practice. New, more substantive...

Representation & Representative-ness

by DONNA LANCLOS, Anodyne Anthropology Donna is chairing the EPIC2019 panel "Representation & Representative-ness" on Monday, Nov 11, 11–12:00 in Providence, Rhode Island. EPIC2019 is around the corner and I’m excited to share the panel I have been invited to facilitate this year with a fantastic group of ethnographers: We will be tackling the ever-relevant theme of “representation”, a topic with a long legacy in ethnography and anthropology. Actually, I feel like the panel already started in the terrific discussions we had to develop our abstract, so I want to share some of that thinking here to inspire you to join the conversation in Providence! Our abstract begins: Ethnographers take pride in representing people’s voices with fidelity, empathy, and deep contextual understanding. But our work can end up reinforcing a distinction between people who “have experience” that we study for insights and people who “have expertise” to use, shape, and monetize that experience. In response...

New Forms of Literacy are Expanding Digital Expression

screenshot of YouTube cooking video "Housewife ka simple routine II Indian youtuber Ravina II"
by STUART HENSHALL, Convo Some time ago I watched an older Indian woman using Google Assistant to access recipes. She expressed how thrilled she was: her family would be eating new meals and they would appreciate her more. As I looked more closely, it was obvious the cooking instruction video (in Hindi) contained no text. (Makes sense, she doesn’t need it.) There are probably millions of recipes like this, many of them not professionally produced. In time, this woman herself may even become a creator of recipes and videos, despite not being able to write. She bypasses text for entertainment and learning, bringing her great joy and a new sense of independence. This is a significant change: previously, sharing recipes across time and space required writing, and less literate users avoided doing anything much more with their phones than calling. Now, voice and video technology is catalyzing new forms of engagement with a wider world. More recently, I was watching a group of TikTok creators talk about TikTok, a social media video...

How to Scale a Culture of Human Understanding

by ELEANOR BARTOSH and CHRIS HAMMOND, IBM IBM is big. We have around 350,000 employees including 20,000 design and user experience professionals, and only a fraction of them are experienced design researchers. Many of you reading this also work in or with large enterprise organizations and, as you know, at that scale it can be easy to get lost. At times, you might feel your research is undervalued and that you, as a researcher, are marginalized. We've been there, too, so we've identified some strategies that help to both address these issues and grow understanding at scale. Crucially, we believe that the whole cross-functional team, not just the researcher, bares equal responsibility for advancing an understanding of the people the organization serves—more colloquially users, customers, constituents, and communities. At this point, you may be thinking, "But wait...I'm not sure I trust my peers to not ask leading questions. I'm not sure they'll pick the right methods, identify the right participants, or analyze the data without...