Jennifer Collier Jennings

What Do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa?

a book review by ADERAYO SANUSI, Princeton University What Do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa? Edited by Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga 256 pp, MIT Press  "Imagine a positive Africa—creative, technological, and scientific in its own way." (1) Several countries in Africa are in a critical period of expanding tech entrepreneurship and foreign investment. Innovation hubs are proliferating, following decades of rapid local adoption of mobile phones and digital platforms. And in the past three years, top Silicon Valley executives like Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and Jack Dorsey have visited the continent to meet emergent developer communities and learn about new products and ventures. As these developments are documented on various media platforms and business school case books, an emerging group of scholars, practitioners, and activists have begun to critique what they characterize as incorrect, harmful discourses about the technological contributions of Africans. They are typically represented merely...

EPIC2020 Will Be a Virtual Event—Join Us from Anywhere in the World!

→ Submissions Accepted through JUNE 1 → Proposal Review Starts APRIL 1 As the pandemic escalates, we’ve been contemplating the forecasts, listening to our communities, and rejigging our lives. It’s now clear that EPIC’s treasured annual gathering must transform into a virtual event this year. Although it’s heartbreaking to abandon our plans in Melbourne, our conference committee is energized by…

EPIC in Uncertain Times

Hello EPIC friends, As ethnographers we are tenacious, resilient, curious, improvisational, thoughtful, and reflective. It is ironic that the thing we do best—being on the ground with people—is exactly not what we should be doing at this time. For most of us, without doubt, it’s a profoundly disconcerting state. If only that were all. As…

Work/Life in the Pandemic: Strategies and Support

The novel coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered our work and lives in a matter of weeks. Our ethnographic sensibility, which keeps us immersed in the lives of people on the ground, has shifted to meticulous social distancing, or even more extreme isolation. At work, research projects are cancelled or radically altered; teams are adapting to…

Do I Have to #MeToo? The Productivity of Silence in Instances of Sexual Harassment and Assault in Field Research

by TAHNI CANDELARIA - How did you two meet again? - Let’s head back to the yacht club for sunset. - What happened to that bottle of champagne? - Please don’t fall off the boat. - Live music doesn’t have the same raw character here. - Tahni, go deal with your friend. - What happened to that bottle of champagne? - Please stop touching me. - Haven’t you been paying attention to the news? - You really shouldn’t drink anymore. - We would make a beautiful couple. - She’s an influencer in Korea, I hate that shit. - His job is so cool! - What happened to that bottle of champagne? - I used to be polyamorous. - I’ll call you whatever I want to call you. - They act so adventurous, they didn’t even sit in the sand. - You need to get in a taxi, now. - WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE?! What did happen to that bottle of champagne, I wonder. In fact, I never knew of it in the first place. That bottle whose presence, or rather—whose absence—persists months later. That miserable hour, the one which was punctuated...

Agency & Tech Colonialism: Extending the Conversation

“What can those of us who work in, and maybe even love, computing cultures do about computing’s colonial expansions?” Sareeta Amrute’s keynote address “Tech Colonialism Today” opened EPIC2019 in a provocative, mobilizing spirit that inspired discussions on stage, in breakout sessions, and around breakfast tables. Sareeta journeyed across time and territory to explore what characteristics make something colonial to begin with, such as extractive and hierarchical systems. As you might guess, she argued that yes, the tech industry today has core colonial attributes. But goal wasn’t just critique; Sareeta showcased counterconduct—the agency that people, communities, and companies have to build alternatives. If colonial legacies and socioeconomic systems seem a bit “out of scope” as context for standard product or user research projects, check out Sareeta’s award-winning book Encoding Race, Encoding Class. You’ll learn about Meena’s daily tea ritual, hear Bipin describe why he sometimes chooses to write bad code,...

Decoding Organizational Culture: An Anthropological Mindset

An EPIC Talk with (JC & Associates) Overview What is organisational culture and how does it shape how we work? Why does the business world and organisations tend to misunderstand organisational culture? How can an ‘anthropological mindset’ give value to organisations? This webinar will set out to answer these three questions by blending a mixture…

Branding in an Age of Consumer Agency

An EPIC Talk with TIMOTHY DE WAAL MALEFYT (Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University) and MARYANN MCCABE (Cultural Connections LLC) Overview Consumers often exhibit complex, even contradictory behavior with brands. Ask mothers about making dinner and their immediate reaction may be: “cooking is a drag.” So a food company responds with brand communications addressing ‘the…

EPIC2019 Ethnographic Film

The film session at EPIC explores the ways ethnographic practitioners have used moving images to interpret data, share insights, and tell the stories of their work. Filmmakers showcase these forays in visual storytelling by screening examples and discussing the limits and possibilities of the form. Films were selected through anonymous review. Program Introduction, Charley Scull Food for Thought: The Path to Food Security in Newark, RUCHIKA MUCHHALA, Third Kulture Media The Learning Library: Using Ethnographic Film as an Organizational Change Tool by Scaling Human Insights across a National Preschool System, HAL PHILLIPS & MEG KINNEY, Bad Babysitter Clyde in Mulberry, ALLEGRA OXBOROUGH, Aero Creative Agency in the Smart Home of the Future, NICK AGAFONOFF, Real Ethnography Introduction CHARLEY SCULL, Committee Chair and Film Session Curator Considering the theme of agency through the lens of film offers many avenues for exploration, in terms of both the stories that film can feature and the power...

Tutorial: Making Sense—Leading Teams Through Synthesis

KSENIA PACHIKOV Field & StudioMARTA CUCIUREAN-ZAPAN IDEO Overview The synthesis phase presents a unique challenge to collaboration. Synthesis requires teams to make creative leaps, and to have a trusted, systematic approach with which to do so. This tutorial will equip practitioners to create favorable conditions for creative thinking and team alignment. It draws on theories of creativity and the psychology of memory and transition in order to practically address the intellectual and emotional challenges of synthesis. We’ll address the logic by which new insights and ideas emerge in synthesis through a grounding in abductive reasoning, found in fields such as anthropology, literature, engineering, and AI. We’ll also explore how to maintain a sense of progress by marking peaks, lows, and transitions throughout the experience. This two-fold approach to synthesis will allow participants to reflect on past experiences and practice future interactions intended to guide teams through the intellectual and emotional tensions...

Tutorial: Information Design for Ethnographic Analysis

SHEILA PONTIS, Sense Information Design & Princeton University Overview Ethnographic analysis is the examination of raw data with an interpretative lens to identify themes, connections and patterns. How can you make this process more accessible to support data socialization and encourage collaboration from all members of an organization or team? In this tutorial you will learn and practice information design principles and visual frameworks to support research data analysis, translate findings into tangible forms and share learnings with more clarity. This hands-on tutorial will help ethnographic and design researchers analyze and synthesize field research data in a structured and visual way. Tutorial participants will create visuals that keep the power of the text, its meanings and emotions, without oversimplifying or misrepresenting the data. The tutorial will cover: Information design principles for supporting ethnographic research Six ways of seeing and showing for analyzing data and visualizing insights...

Tutorial: Cultivating Research Capacity as Organizational Strategy

MEENA KOTHANDARAMAN & ZARLA LUDIN twig + fish Overview It’s not enough to hire a great researcher: organizations need the capacity to develop and learn from strategic, credible research. Participants in this tutorial will learn and practice a tool for cultivating that capacity that can be used with stakeholders, teams, or clients. A central challenge for organizations is the inchoate nature of addressing “unknowns.” Too often, they misalign questions with objectives, confuse organizational agendas with research questions, lead with method, use inappropriate metrics of success, over-simplify complex human dynamics, and set unrealistic expectations for data. The NCredible Framework meets the challenge by approaching the research process as an organizational strategy. It is a simple but flexible process for aligning stakeholders around well-defined questions, defining research scope, designing credible studies, and learning from findings. Participants in this tutorial will learn to: identify assumptions,...

Tutorial: Ethics in Data-Driven Industries

EMANUEL MOSS CUNY/Data & Society FRIEDERIKE SCHÜÜR Cityblock Health Overview Technology companies have discovered ethics in the wake of public pressure to consider the consequences of their products. This has been prompted by the finding that machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML/AI) systems, as fundamentally pattern-seeking technologies, can and do exacerbate long-term structural inequalities. Companies and employees also struggle with the challenges posed by the dual-use nature of technology. This tutorial will prepare you to understand and contribute to the more ethical development and deployment of ML/AI systems. It covers: An overview of ethical challenges in ML/AI today An introduction to the development of ML/AI systems, designed to give you insight into the reasoning processes and workflows of technical colleagues and how they generally address issues like accuracy and fairness (no quantitative background required!) A overview of current efforts to design more ethical ML/AI systems,...