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The Way to Design Ethnography for Public Service: Barriers and Approaches in Japanese Local Government

KUNIKAZU AMAGASA This paper introduces various barriers hindering the introduction of ethnography in support of public service design improvement in Japan, and discusses ways to overcome these barriers. Service design approaches using ethnography are gaining popularity in the public sector, especially in Europe. In Japan, however, local governments have adopted few or no ethnographic methods in order to improve public services. One of the most difficult barriers to the establishment of ethnographic approaches in Japan is the long-lasting relationships between citizens and local governments. Ethnographers engage in competition with citizens and are accused of bias, making it difficult for local governments to conduct ethnographic research freely and understand their citizens in depth. In order to overcome these barriers, this paper proposes three approaches about introducing areas, research protocols and organizations....

Turn and Face the Strange: An Ethnographic Approach to Change Management

MADS HOLME The ability to lead organizational and cultural change has never been a more critical factor for success in business than today. With renewed urgency many executives ask what do with their company culture(s): “Why can’t we build organizations that are more innovative, inspiring, and more agile – and why do our change initiatives typically fail?” Based on project engagements where questions like these have been a focal point, this paper aims to shed light on the conditions and role of business anthropology to take active part in enhancing organizational change programs. Through concrete examples, it discusses central challenges on how we as ethnographers can strengthen our approach when navigating in change programs – not only in terms of how we decompose and diagnose culture (telling companies what they should not do) – but more importantly on how to play an active role in leading the way and tackling complexity through positive enablers of change....

Ethnography in the Age of Analytics

ADRIAN SLOBIN and TODD CHERKASKY As North America begins to emerge from the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, companies are turning up their investment dollars. This investment includes a renewed focus on what might loosely be called “the customer experience.” In our recent consulting engagements, this focus often comes in the form of a clearly stated client demand for a very unclear concept – a “360 view of my customer.” The metaphor conjures up a pantopticonal image of customer beliefs and behaviors which would precipitate a perfectly calibrated set of products and services. Ethnographic practice would, one would think, be well positioned to support this renewed focus on experience. However, we have found that the conversation about customer experience typically begins – and ends – with analytics and business intelligence. The metaphor of a “360 view of my customer” has led to an emphasis on data acquisition, with less of a focus on experiential understanding. That said, data modeling can be fruitfully employed...

Keitai, Blog, and Kuuki-wo-yomu (Read the Atmosphere): Communicative Ecology in Japanese Society

TADAMASA KIMURA In mobile communications studies, Japan is known for its “keitai culture.” However, the actual use of keitai among the Japanese is anything but glamorous. On the other hand, strong preference of online diary and diary blogs among the Japanese is remarkable. What is puzzling, however, is that the Japanese online diarists and bloggers have been astoundingly self-effacing. What communications are they engaged in, with providing little information about themselves? Relying on and advancing the methodological perspective of “communicative ecology,” this study discusses the way online diaries and blogs are intertwined with mobile communications, embedded in the communicative ecology. It also reveals the way “kuuki wo yomu” (read the atmosphere) motivates people’s expectations and actions in social communications, contributing to the formation of the communicative ecology....

The Martial Ethnographic Arts

SUZANNE L. THOMAS There is longevity to the ethnographic arts: a report referred back to over years, an image that captures a resiliently fresh insight. In crude words, ethnographic analysis has a longer shelf life than traditional market research. The latter requires tending to keep its categories replete with a fresh cast of characters. The former is distinguished by a methodological practice that keeps it fresh and truthful without the necessity of being, for the moment, a truth. There is a mastery of the ethnographic arts. For twenty years, I have practiced as an academic ethnographer, private sector consultant and now corporate practitioner. I now hire ethnographers. (I have become an armchair anthropologist.) To do so, I must discern what makes some ethnographic practitioners better than others. I compare along three practices: documentary finesse, journeying and discipline (the latter more yogic than Foucaultian). I hire for the longevity and truthfulness of their work....

Making Silence Matter: The Place of the Absences in Ethnography

BRIAN RAPPERT Professional and organizational attention in recent years to what ethnographers can and cannot disclose as part of their research accounts has extended the range and relevance of concerns pertaining to the relation between investigators and those they study. When researchers are working under conditions characterised by secrecy and a limited access to information, then the difficulties faced in offering accounts are all the more acute. This presentation examines the political, ethical, and epistemological challenges associated with how we manage what is missing within our writing. The argument is based on an ethnographic-type engagement over a five-year period. I want to consider the representational implications of the disclosure rules, confidentiality agreements, informal arrangements, etc. associated with contemporary research; in particular their implications for how knowledge claims are substantiated and reproduced. I also want to go further though to ask what novel writing strategies and methods could enable us to...

A Little Humility, Please

RICK E. ROBINSON “Things, not, mind you, individual things, but the whole system of things, with their internal order, make us the people we are.” Danny Miller, Stuff (p. 53) The fall of Icarus—wax melting, loosed feathers eddying as he plunges from the sky into the Aegean— is a central image in western mythology. A metaphor for the risks of hubris, it is also a provocative figure through which to think about the value which ethnographic research claims and the range of reactions to those claims. In 14th and 15th century painting, the Fall of Icarus was a relatively common theme for artists (and their patrons). But it was commonly related with a different emphasis than the way we recount the myth today: in the great Italian and Northern Renaissance paintings, it is Daedalus, father to Icarus, who is the sympathetic center of the tale. As inventor of both the fabulous wings and the labyrinth from which they enabled father and son to escape, Daedalus the craftsman, architect and inventor was resourceful, competent, and –except...

How Consumers Create Value in a Recession Economy

TIMOTHY DE WAAL MALEFYT This essay examines a conscious shift in the cultural flows of consumption practices. It explores the ways consumers are generating and sharing shopping competence as a new form of value. I argue that a shift in consumer consciousness and resulting open social discourse around shopping practices are creating a new consumption narrative in the recession. This narrative celebrates the resourceful and collective acts of people who transform modes of restriction (cutting back) into a positive social value of thrift. As people are practicing more thoughtful purchasing styles they are also more communicative with others in sharing their shopping strategies and ways of savings. Social changes are thus arising out of these adjustments in shopping behaviors. Such emergent shopping behaviors amplify a new sociability that demonstrates more appropriate ways to spend and save on commodities. This change shows that consumers are not just accepting new attitudes and behaviors towards shopping because they have to, but are...

Lead Type, Dead Type: New Patterns of Local News Production and Consumption

ELIZABETH CHURCHILL and JEFF UBOIS Newspapers are in trouble. Steep declines in circulation and advertising revenue have forced outright closures, reductions in force, cessation of print in favor of web only editions and frantic searches for additional sources of revenue and audience. In this paper, we report results from an interview study focused on everyday news consumption practices. Our study indicates there are many design opportunities for local news creation and distribution at interface/interaction, infrastructure and strategy levels....

Consumerization and Renewing Peoples and Practices Research

DAWN NAFUS, ROGERIO DE PAULA, KATHI KITNER, RENEE KURIYAN and SCOTT D. MAINWARING This paper documents the beginnings of Intel’s recently launched Consumerization project, and uses these early experiences as a way into exploring new paths to business relevance and impact. These paths weave in and out of the increasingly institutionalized position of corporate ethnography as research that takes place before products are designed. These paths are one response to wider transformations in the business environment, and are not a general prescription, “ethnography should now do X in corporations.” However, this project does embody a significant move away from past modalities of conducting and applying research, and in doing so reveals broader possibilities for ethnography that may prove viable for others in different contexts. We begin by providing some institutional history and exploring the wider industry transformations that compelled us to design a research project in the way that we did. The paper goes on to describe our approach...

Tangible Steps Toward Tomorrow: Designing a Vision for Early Childhood Education

HILLARY CAREY and SUZANNE GIBBS HOWARD “The area of early education is experiencing tremendous experimentation and progress, but what has been missing are right brain thinkers. These are individuals whose craft is seeing patterns, making connections, adapting what works in one context to the realities of another context.” – Tony Berkley, Program Director, Youth and Education, The W. K. Kellogg Foundation In 2007 the W. K. Kellogg Foundation engaged the innovation and design firm, IDEO, to design a compelling vision for the future of early childhood education. The foundation was ready for a new perspective on a well-explored topic. IDEO’s design thinking approach engaged the foundation and its stakeholders in new ways that promoted feasible, yet innovative, solutions. In this paper we describe the combined use of ethnographic-style research and design thinking in a project addressing a complex, systemic and philanthropic challenge: public education in the United States. We seek to provide the reader with a clear and convincing...

Keynote Address

HOWARD TULLMAN Flashpoint Academy In this talk I spoke from my long experience in starting and building entrepreneurial businesses and, more importantly, about my more recent work in turning around several failing institutions and the many challenges of effectively implementing and managing change in established businesses even in the face of existential threats to their continued well-being. Change is easy—overcoming the resistance to change takes a little more work and a great deal of patience and preparation. In applying the lessons from my various adventures to our industry’s present concerns and issues, I started with a simple suggestion. In today’s aggressively “dollar and sense” economy, where it is crucial to demonstrate and justify virtually every activity (and especially research and analysis) to senior management, it’s important to have a strategy and approach which makes the value and relevance of your activities apparent to the entire organization. My suggestion was that we turn the “tools of our trade”...

Renewing Our Practice: Preparing the Next Generation of Practitioners

SUSAN SQUIRES and ALEXANDRA MACK A key aspect of renewal is disciplinary renewal though the addition of new practitioners, who can bring revitalization to our practice. To successfully land their first job, today’s new practitioners need practical, relevant basic skills and knowledge, which they can acquire through a range of training programs. In this paper, we reflect upon the significant methodological, interpretive, ethical implications of such training programs for ethnographic praxis in industry. How they evolve and change the work, how new knowledge is created in the field and what that may mean for the future renewal of our practice begins with how they are trained....

Flux: Creating the Conditions for Change

MARIA BEZAITIS and KEN ANDERSON To start to shape directions for new business opportunities, and to remain attentive to changing business landscapes, ethnographic practice must produce knowledge about the social world by looking at relevant shifts in social frames and then use this knowledge to shape the informed fictions that will move business climates and interests. Flux is an approach that demonstrates one way to evolve the work from its traditional focus on design and making good products to the development of new business models. This approach emerges from very specific sets of changes taking place presently in the technology sector and the desire to apply ethnography, interpretive work, theory to figure more explicitly as the central mediation between businesses and the social world....

Harmonizing Human Eyes with Digital Sensors

HIROSHI TAMURA and TAMAMI SUGASAKA In this article we report on our research that focused on enhancing shopping experiences by introducing new media services in the physical environment of grocery shopping. Since we were interested in situated shopper’s experiences we conducted fieldwork. In particular, we paid attention to the holistic grocery shopping process because a shopping experience is, as we suggest, more than a composition of discrete actions and/or feelings towards a shopping arena. Rather it is a type of narrative featuring various vignettes. In addition to pure ethnographic observation, digital sensors were used as a complementary means to observe shopper’s experiences, since digital-sensor observation enabled us to record shopper’s entire moment-to-moment behaviors with unified metrics, i.e. digital sensors served to complement our perceptions that turned out to be less reliable in terms of consistency; under these conditions of time-space transition, observers face difficulties to become aware of subtle changes...