Susan Faulkner

Getting Noticed, Showing-Off, Being Overheard

SUSAN FAULKNER and JAY MELICAN This paper reports early findings of an ethnographically-inspired research project focused on individuals who are actively engaged in the creation and online distribution of original media – on blogs, vlogs, and social networking sites – and on the collectives that form around “user-generated content.” In this paper, we profile a small number of creative individuals producing original content in four very different cultural contexts: a children’s book author in Los Angeles, a pair of video bloggers in New York, an ex-pat journalist and social commentator in Dubai, and a cosmetics expert sharing advice with an online community in Seoul, South Korea. We explore what motivates each “lead user” to create; we examine how they imagine themselves as authors and artists, and how they imagine (and interact with) their readers and viewers. In addition, we explain how the insights they provide into an emerging form of online authorship are relevant to Intel Corporation’s Digital Home Group....

Sunday is Family Day

CRYSTA J. METCALF and GUNNAR HARBOE This paper explores the transitions between “my-time” and “your-time,” between different social roles, and between different technological contexts. We used shadowing, voice-mail diaries and semi-structured group interviews to investigate the limits of seamless mobility. We identified an interesting behavior we call a “peek”: a quick look ahead in order to prepare for transitions. We also found that people are able to able to infer a lot from very little contextual information, and we argue that technologies designed for the above transitions therefore should rely on a few, well-chosen pieces of presence/awareness data, rather than exhaustive information. As a guide to invention and design, this study underlines the need to recognize our users’ intelligence. Instead of making applications that anticipate what users wants to do, we suggest providing information that is relevant and clear enough that users can take a glance at it and decide for themselves how to proceed....

The Real Problem: Rhetorics of Knowing in Corporate Ethnographic Research

DAWN NAFUS and KEN ANDERSON This paper explores discourses of the ‘real’ in commercial ethnographic research, and the transitions and transformations those discourses make possible and impossible. A common strategy to legitimize industrial ethnography is to claim a special relationship to ‘real people’, or argue that one is capturing what is ‘really’ happening in ‘natural’ observation. Distancing language describes ‘insights’ into a situation somehow separate from ourselves, ‘findings’ and ‘quotes’ that we seemingly extract from one context and plunk in another. Whether it is chimps (in Jane Goodall’s case) or consumers (in ours); we know what is going on or not. This model of ethnographic knowing has adopted the naturalistic science discourse of the behavioralist—the neutral observers in an environment. Here we explore how this epistemic culture has been created and its ‘real’ consequences. What we do not attempt is an assertion of the merits of one kind of ethnography over another, or a rehash of...

Embed: Mapping the Future of Work and Play: A Case for “Embedding” Non-Ethnographers in the Field

ANDREW GREENMAN and SCOTT SMITH This paper reflects on an experiment to combine an “ethnographic walking tour” with futures and foresight methods, as a means of enhancing and validating foresight exercises through the addition of valuable first-hand observation. The project, entitled Embed, was created to familiarize senior strategists, product developers, foresight specialists and marketers with the potential of ethnographic research to inform decision making. We introduce the concept of “embedding” to describe the process of placing non-ethnographers into fieldwork situations. We then reflect on the opportunities and limitations of creating spaces for embedding non-experts in such settings. In the recommendations, we summarize the experience from a practical as well as theoretical perspective. The paper raises two questions related to the spatialization of commercial ethnographic knowledge; first, the value of using “embedding” to extend the territory of ethnography to a wider audience. Second, what this experience reveals...

Online Place and Person-Making: Matters of the Heart and Self-Expression

RACHEL JONES and MARTIN ORTLIEB In recent years, there has been a substantial take up in social software, but other than translating the vocabulary and arranging suitable payment facilities, little or no account is taken of cultural sense-making in the global deployment of these systems. We report on two studies of social software, an online dating site and a social network blog. We show that people need ‘places’ because it is only there persons can meaningfully be (re)presented. Further, ‘cultural’ perspectives greatly influence and shape the metaphors and models of communication. In our recommendations, we suggest that multinational participants’ metaphors about ‘place’ should be used as tools-to-think-with rather than be implemented literally, and thereby used to enrich a feature set for global services such as online dating and blogging tools....

‘Global Events Local Impacts’: India’s Rural Emerging Markets

NIMMI RANGASWAMY and KENTARO TOYAMA The paper attempts to analyse rapidly changing rural Indian socio-economic landscapes from a recent empirical study of rural PC kiosks. Rural contexts in India are essentially composite and digitally immature communication ecologies. Some of the questions we wanted to answer were as follows: How do computing technologies find their way into a rural community? Who are the people driving this technology? How technology is being received by the community? Breaking away from a committed long-term participatory ethnography in a bounded field, we consider an array of wider contexts and a repertoire of methods available for qualitative research to study societies in transition....

From Ancestors to Herbs: Innovation According to the ‘Protestant Re-formation’ of African Medicine

STOKES JONES This paper argues that popular healthcare practice in urban South Africa bears little resemblance to the essentialized descriptions of ‘Traditional African Medicine’ (TAM) that abound in the literature. It defines several key transitions that have occurred in African medicine, outlining how it can be re-formed on another basis which better matches both the pluralistic-syncretistic logic of current medical practices and the less deferential ‘spirit’ of those enacting them. We present the search for ‘embedded innovation’ formulated with Procter & Gamble as a recommended approach for cross-cultural product development (in healthcare and more generally)....

What Is Our Project?

PAUL DOURISH At CHI 2006, I had the interesting experience of presenting a paper on ethnography and design that seemed to touch many nerves (Dourish, 2006). Both at the conference, and in virtual settings like the “anthrodesign” email list, a flood of discussion accompanied what were, to my mind, not particularly new observations about the nature of ethnographic work in technological contexts. The topic was clearly more fraught than I had imagined. In the spirit (loosely) of Tsing’s “Friction” (Tsing, 2005), I am intrigued by the disciplinary frictions by which engagements between ethnographic praxis and other disciplinary approaches gain traction, and intrigued too by the different local forms by which such “global” disciplines such as computer science, anthropology, design, and ethnography are brought together in situated and particular effective hybrids. In the CHI 2006 paper, this manifested itself with a concern with the ways in which theory and analytic positioning, and particularly the notion of ethnographic...

From Ethnographic Insight to User-centered Design Tools

ROBIN BEERS and PAMELA WHITNEY This case study illustrates how Wells Fargo, a leading financial services institution, builds user-centered online experiences on a foundation of ethnographic insight. The research maintains a shelf life of several years and findings are kept alive through multidisciplinary participation and reusable user-centered design tools....

“Why Are You Taking My Picture?”: Navigating the Cultural Contexts of Visual Procurement

JAY HASBROUCK and SUSAN FAULKNER This paper explores how methods used to procure ethnographic visuals transition between different cultural histories and varying visual vocabularies. We use an instance during which we were detained (and the police summoned) after taking photos of an apartment building in Cairo to illustrate how these transitions can lead to unexpected and serious consequences with which ethnographers must grapple. We argue that considering factors such as geo-political context, notions of giving and receiving, boundaries between private and public, as well as a culture’s historical relationship with photographic and documentary processes, are all essential to developing a critical position on visual procurement in the field....

Transitions/Translations/Gaps: Ethnographic Representations in the Pharmaceutical Industry

JOHN P. WENDEL and LISA JANE HARDY Like all research in the corporate world, ethnographic research must move between different domains, translate between differently situated social actors and risk misinterpretation. In product development, this misinterpretation can result in gaps in the complex chain of information that comprises a product pipeline. This work shows how anthropologists’ use of the concept of personhood to analyze and understand corporate clients and people that use pharmaceutical products, can minimize the risk of misinterpretation, allow ethnographic data to move more smoothly throughout the product development process and enhance possibilities for successful product use in the lives of those who use pharmaceutical products....

Cultural Transitions – WWMD? Ethical Impulses and the Project of Ethnography in Industry

MELISSA CEFKIN We are at an early moment in the formation of an ethnographic project in and of the corporate world. I suggest that the work of ethnography in industry would benefit from being conceptualized as project in its own right. This paper seeks guidance inspired by earlier practitioners and scholars of ethnography and design as to how to think about the potential of this project and attempts to tease out some of the ethical impulses that underlie this project. This consideration is particularly timely in light of a current interest of companies in the motivations, practices and behavior of the people through which they achieve their goals. This interest is especially relevant in the context of services–an area of particular growth and attention–in that with services what is being sold or exchanged is the performance of the people, often acting with or through other resources. In light of the fact that ethnographers in industry are actors in services systems and are both subject to and influencers of the dynamics of the service...

Beyond the Fabulous Wealth and Celebrity Acclaim: Success in Consultancy

RICK E. ROBINSON I’d like to take a slightly approach to this topic from those of my co-panelists. I’m not going to talk about success as ‘an ethnographer,’ which I’m not, at least by training anyway, or the success of ethnography as an undertaking, an enterprise, within the setting within which I have worked. Rather, I’d like to talk about what it means –to me, because this will be idiosyncratic I’m sure – to succeed as an ethnography practice. To talk about ‘a consultancy’ as a collective succeeding over time.As soon as one begins to talk about consultancy, the elephant of ‘the client’ enters the room, along with a couple of implications that match him in scale. With a client comes the expectation that ethnographic work will be productive in the sense of actually producing some sort of artifact – a report, a recommendation, a PowerPoint deck or a workshop, but something. And there is a great deal that is entailed by that expectation that works both backwards and forwards through the work. But that expectation...

Between Cram School and Career in Tokyo

DIANE J. SCHIANO, AME ELLIOTT and VICTORIA BELLOTTI In a series of studies (including interviews, observations, surveys and focus groups), we explored the leisure practices of young adults in Tokyo. After initial fieldwork with a wide age-range of participants, we narrowed our focus to 19-25 year olds, who have more leisure time and for whom leisure activities hold greater significance. In this paper, we briefly characterize these transitional “golden years” between cram school and career in Japan, and illustrate how a grounded understanding of leisure preferences and patterns can help suggest issues and opportunities for design....

Ethnography of Change: Change in Ethnography

TIMOTHY DE WAAL MALEFYT This paper examines change as a model for success in ethnography. In business vernacular, change is relative to difference, and difference is thought to add value and differentiate a brand as unique to consumers. This paper argues that change is not a byproduct of the need for differentiation, but rather, change creates value, in and of itself. Qualified anthropologists working in business can maintain a sense of difference from pseudo-ethnographers by incorporating change as a model. When qualified anthropologists succeed in ethnographic research it is because they are able to change with corporate clients, and translate cultural principles into practical issues. This paper concludes by calling for anthropologists to lead ethnographic change with their culturally-based insights, thereby informing clients and changing the way clients relate to ethnography....