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...
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,...
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...
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...
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."
by OLIVER SWEET and ELLIE TAIT, Ipsos
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
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.
do we fail to integrate cultural insight in a meaningful...
by DANYA GLABAU, Implosion Labs
What if we thought differently about how to integrate human and machine agencies?
Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the PoorVirginia Eubanks2018, 272 pp, St. Martin's Press
As I sat down in to write this review of Virginia Eubanks’ latest book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, I couldn’t help but consider it in light of the growing restiveness among tech workers in response to their companies’ perceived ethical lapses. Rank and file employees have begun to speak out against the use of big data-driven software systems and infrastructure for ethically questionable ends like warfare, policing, and family separation at the United States-Mexico border. To date, these protests have mired several public-private contracts between government agencies and some of the world’s biggest tech companies in controversy, including Google’s Project Maven, a collaboration with the Pentagon...
Instructor: JOHN PAYNE
This video presents the lecture portion of a half-day tutorial that included a series of participatory exercises.
Over the past few decades, human-centered design has been at the center of a design renaissance, providing a transparent framework that exposes our rationale and demystifies our process. But a focus on the "user," their "problems," and "needs" is not sufficient to understand how products operate at a societal scale. In the increasingly complex, interdependent technological environment we are called to design for, we need to imagine the implications of the products and services we design, as we work.
This tutorial reviews a variety of perspectives on this topic, provides a framework for understanding multiple levels of product impact, and covers some initial methods we can employ to work with empathy—not just for the "user," but for every participant in the system we seek to change. Topics include:
An overview of Maeda’s three categories of design and their shortfalls
Instructor: IAN LOWRIE
Approx 1 hr 43 min. This video presents the lecture portion of a half-day tutorial. Case studies and a bibliography are provided for your use.
Instructor Ian Lowrie describes the organizational and technological aspects of modern data pipelines, framing data science ethnographically as a knowledge practice and data scientists as a particular kind of expert. He also explores methodological approaches to studying data work in real-world contexts. Participants learned to:
Think ethnographically about data work as a knowledge practiceDevelop methodological strategies for studying data workChart the organizational and technological components of data infrastructureInterpret the mindset, jargon, and practical orientations of their data scientist and developer colleaguesUnderstand how algorithmic systems and data analytics impact organizational structures, work practices, and business models
In the second half of the tutorial, participants worked collaboratively to develop a pitch for...