Jennifer Collier Jennings

Imposter Ethnographer: The Value of Feeling Like an Outsider

by ERIN B. TAYLOR, Canela Consulting & European Women Payments Network At EthnoBorrel, an ethnography meet-up that I co-run in the Netherlands, we talk about the issues ethnographers face in their applied practice. One term in particular keeps cropping up: impostor syndrome. The people who attend our meetups are highly educated, capable practitioners who apply their ethnographic skills as service designers, UXers, product owners, HR managers, researchers, technologists, and more. They have cracked the job market and are using their ethnographic skills in their daily practice. Yet many continue to struggle with feelings of being an impostor. Imposter syndrome is a multidimensional experience that can be rooted in sexism, racism, class, and many kinds of professional hierarchies and power dynamics. I want to focus on a different type of imposter experience specific to ethnographers. Often we work in places where we are the only ethnographer, or one of very few. More often, ‘ethnographer’ isn’t in our job titles,...

Livable Relations with Metrics

by MINNA RUCKENSTEIN, University of Helsinki It is easy to become pessimistic, if not dystopic, about tracking technologies. The current digital services landscape promotes scoring, selecting and sorting of people for the purposes of maximizing profit. Machine logics rely on profiling characteristics and predicting actions, and management by algorithms appears to be disproportionately affecting those with temporary and low-income jobs. Tracking technologies become complicit in deepening and accelerating social divisions and inequalities. The most vulnerable in societies have no say in how their actions are monitored and lives are harmed by algorithmically produced metrics. In this context, Quantified Self (QS) – an international community of ‘self-trackers’ that shares insights gained through self-quantification and data analysis – seems rarified, an example of the privileged techno-elite positioned to use tracking data to pursue their own values and goals. With this limitation, QS hardly appears to be a useful prism...

Blockchain and the Social Challenge of Cooperation

An EPIC Talk with ELLIE RENNIE, RMIT University Approx 50 minutes Overview The value of blockchain is often expressed in terms of what it eliminates—the cost of establishing trust. Portrayed as a “trustless” technology or itself a “trust machine”, it seems to open horizons for innovation by “solving the trust problem.” In fact, the technology…

3 Narratives that Stymie Social Change and What We Can Do about It

by NAT KENDALL-TAYLOR, FrameWorks Institute Social change requires culture change and social science can help. “Context matters.” “It’s a systemic issue.” “It’s…complicated.” As ethnographers and researchers these are our mantras—but how can we communicate about social issues in ways that really make a difference? Evidence shows that how we frame our messages can have dramatic effects on all kinds of outcomes that count. Real social change requires shifts in deeply ingrained cultural models: what people feel about society and social groups; how we understand problems and their solutions; and the degree to which we feel motivated and willing to engage in the social problems of our day. I have studied nearly 40 different social issues, the cultural models people use to understand them, and messaging that can shifts those understandings. Across these diverse social issues, I have found three cultural models that stymie social change—and three research-based messaging strategies that can help shift them. Three...

Agency and Change: Using Anthropology to Improve Organizational Change

An EPIC Talk with KATE SIECK (RAND) & STEVEN GARCIA (TeamOne) Approx 57 minutes Description The language of change is practically ubiquitous these days: from tech startups to legacy manufacturers and government agencies, organizations of every stripe want to innovate, grow, pivot, reorient, or disrupt. But although the language of change is varied, the burgeoning…

Moral Crumple Zones: Agency and Accountability in Human-AI Interaction

An EPIC Talk with MADELEINE CLARE ELISH, Data & Society Approx 50 minutes Overview Breathless rhetoric about AI has promised safer, more accurate systems that would take the “human out of the loop.” With more nuanced visions of AI, not to mention some high-profile catastrophes, the prevailing rhetoric now promises that keeping a “human in…

Ethnography, Independent Consulting, and the Gig Life

An EPIC Talk with SHELLEY SATHER & HAL PHILLIPS Approx 85 minutes Overview Calling all independent consultants and freelance ethnographers! Join seasoned and successful freelancers Shelley and Hal for a presentation and discussion about strategies, opportunities, and challenges of gig work. They will share their own stories of taking the leap from employee to freelancer…

Framing Brands and Markets: Consumer Culture Theory

An EPIC Talk moderated by RITA DENNY (Practica Group & EPIC) with: DAVID CROCKETT (University of South Carolina), AMBER EPP (University of Wisconsin), CRAIG THOMPSON (University of Wisconsin), & SUNAINA SCHULTZ (Grounded Insights LLC) Approx 78 minutes Description Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) looks at consumers, brands, and markets from a social and cultural vantage point.…

Anthro Spectacle @SXSW: How Anthropology Captured the Imagination of Marketing Tech

by E. GIGI TAYLOR, Luminosity Research I live in Austin, Texas. Along with breakfast tacos, Willie Nelson, and scorching hot summers, Austin is the home of the international conference known as South by Southwest (SXSW). It’s actually three conferences (Interactive, Music, and Film) rolled out over ten days in March. Much of the Interactive portion is about technology, media, and brands. SXSW brings in close to 300,000 people and is now recognized as the prime national stage to launch new products and brands. Those of us who have lived in Austin forever lovingly (or not so lovingly) call this colossus “South by So What.” Traffic gets even more snarled and all the restaurants are packed. But having spent a good part of my professional career in advertising, I find the Interactive conference an increasingly fascinating spectacle. But “the most valuable business weekend of the year” is hardly a hive of anthropological thinking. So I was truly honored—and more than a little surprised—to receive an invitation to speak...

Owning Our Devices: Learning from People Who Adapt Tech for Well-Being

An interview with MARGARET MORRIS by ANNA ZAVYALOVA & GIULIA NICOLINI, Stripe Partners Public debate has rightly focused on the perils and toxicity of new technologies, and questioned the motivations of the companies building them. Meanwhile though, people are creatively adapting technology to their own social and psychological needs. Margie Morris explores this crucial space of personal innovation for social connection and well-being in her new book Left to Our Own Devices: Outsmarting Smart Technology to Reclaim our Relationships, Health, and Focus. Margie is a clinical psychologist, researcher, and inventor of technologies which support well-being. She led research on emotional technology at Intel, conducted user experience at Amazon and now teaches in the department of Human-Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. Based on years of primary and secondary research as well as Margie’s own involvement in creating apps and other technologies, the book offers a fresh take on human-technology interaction,...

Needed: Anthropologists in Insurance

by SHELLY HABECKER Swiss Re I work in life insurance. No, I’m not an actuary or underwriter—I’m an anthropologist, and it’s a great fit. I began my career working with refugees in the public and nonprofit sectors, then spent seven years teaching anthropology courses to undergraduates, and I’ll admit that insurance wasn’t on my mind. But now that I’m here the value of my background is clear: Anthropology has taught me to be a listener, a storyteller, and a holistic thinker. I use these skills every day in my job in customer experience on an insurance innovation team. Another thing is clear: the insurance industry needs anthropologists, even though they might not know it yet. So, if you’re an anthropologist or ethnographer of another stripe, please consider applying for jobs in the insurance industry. To do that you’ll need to get creative about where you look for employment and how you present your skills. Let me explain. Insurance Companies Need Anthropologists as Listeners Insurance companies are brimming...

10 Things You Should Know about Moving from Academia to Industry

by NADINE LEVIN, Facebook In the fall of 2016, I made the jump from academia to UX research. As opportunities for permanent employment in the social sciences are becoming more and more scarce, this move is becoming increasingly common. And yet, I made this transition with few resources or mentorship, feeling unprepared and unsupported by my discipline. During my undergraduate and postgraduate studies, I was self-confident and passionate about my work. But after a couple of post-docs, a handful of scholarships/prizes, several “you were our second choice” responses to tenure track job searches, and a full book manuscript that got rejected by a press (which shall remain nameless), I found myself unhappy and full of self-doubt. Worst of all, I became increasingly pessimistic—not just about academia, but about life. So, I decided to try out industry. I left my NSF postdoc (and bewildered mentor) three months early, and started exploring jobs in the tech sector. During this liminal time, a friend of mine mentioned...

The EPIC Gallery: A Space for Action and Intervention

by MAKALÉ FABER CULLEN “We don’t fail because we are not intelligent or erudite enough; we fail because we don’t present our stakeholders with engaging material that will improve their ideas. We choose the medium which makes us comfortable, not the one our stakeholders would prefer.” — Sam Ladner, Practical Ethnography (159) Our work as ethnographers, as social scientists, is rich, experiential, relational, multi-dimensional and full-sensory. As often as we can, we immerse ourselves in communities and in landscapes and then—we heighten all our senses, turn down our ego and try to understand the context. Nothing is as important as context. We document and analyze these contexts and the individuals and objects within them, refining them for a new context of service design or product development that is itself a whole new ecosystem of relationships, ethics, finances, goals, timescapes. Businesses and organizations have distinct customs, rituals, and standards for creating "evidence-that-counts." EPIC2019...

Ask Us Anything! April 4–5

Join the EPIC2019 Program Committee April 4–5 for an “Ask Us Anything” session on the Ethnography Hangout Slack, #epic_org channel. If you’ve got questions about your conference submission (due April 12), the conference theme, or anything else about the EPIC2019 experience, this is a great chance to chat with the people running the show. You’ll…

Culture Needs a Fool-Proof Definition

by OLIVER SWEET and ELLIE TAIT, Ipsos People love the idea of culture. Finding out what makes France French, Spain Spanish or Denmark Danish is why we travel. We see culture as a manifestation of the greatest human achievements – we flock to art galleries and read the latest Booker Prize–winning novel. But if we’re so naturally gripped by the idea of culture, why is it so hard to get traction for the value of culture in business? Cultural intelligence doesn’t come naturally in corporate settings, even for researchers. When we go to work we often switch off our cultural curiosity. We begin client debriefs with penetration statistics, household expenditure and demographics, but we rarely attempt to immerse our clients in the culture their product is inextricably nestled within. Variations in survey results are described as ‘market differences’, a damp squib of a term for what is actually a complex web of cultural influences. Why do we fail to integrate cultural insight in a meaningful...