Susan Faulkner

Considering Ethnography in Various Business Settings – What Is Success?

Moderator: TRACEY LOVEJOYPanelists: GENEVIEVE BELL, JEANETTE BLOMBERG, TIMOTHY MALEFYT, RICK E. ROBINSON Between Hype and Promise: Two Decades of Becoming JEANETTE BLOMBERG The invitation to participate in this panel has been an occasion for a personal reflection on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re heading. The “we” here is not all encompassing, but instead references the people with whom I have shared all or part of a journey that began more than two decades ago. I want to begin by recounting a recent conversation I had with my friend and colleague, Lucy Suchman. Having been at IBM Research for about a year, I was telling Lucy about all the press coverage I was getting, you know the – surprise, surprise, anthropologists at Big Blue – sort of thing. Lucy smiled and reminded me of the file she’d been keeping for the last couple of decades, now quite hefty, with articles proclaiming the discovery of anthropologists or ethnographers in the corporate world. We had a good laugh, sighed, and then wondered...

At Home in the Field: From Objects to Lifecycles

ALEXANDRA ZAFIROGLU and ASHWINI ASOKAN In this paper, we explore how biographies of domestic objects are intertwined with the personal biographies of their owners and caretakers, narratives of household formation, and the life cycle of the family, and how we position the value of this work to business planners and engineers at Intel Corporation. By being curious and interested in objects in people’s homes and listening carefully to the narratives people tell about them, we create moving pictures of culturally-inflected constructions of individuals’ and groups’ lifecycles which in turn demonstrates how ‘objects’ are not ‘objective’, but always constituted and given meaning through relationships with and among people. At Intel Corporation, understanding life cycle transitions mediated by domestic objects deepens our knowledge both of technology in domestic spaces and of our current and potential customers and is an integral part of the development of technologies that enable experiences people will value....

We We We All The Way Home: The “We” Affect in Transitional Spaces

KEN ANDERSON and ROGERIO DE PAULA The majority of ethnographic studies for businesses have focused on places: home, work, “third places,” and even “non-places”. Daily life, however, is composed of transitional moments – matter of “in-betweeness.” Transitional spaces and movements have increasingly been sites for “filling the gap” informational and “cocooning” products. We explored the in-between transitional moments on buses and commuter boats in Salvador, Bahia. We contend that the experience in this time-space creates a “we-tween” or just a “we-we,” which engages the people and the environment in a moment of group solidarity and interactivity. We contrast this study of in-between to those we conducted in “Western” countries. The “we” affect suggests that corporate efforts in design and development have been disproportionally focused on Euro-North American values, which has direct implications for corporate innovation. We highlight the value of a multi-voiced approach in the collaboration between...

The Yin and Yang of Seduction and Production: Social Transitions of Ethnography between Seductive Play and Productive Force in Industry

ELIZABETH (DORI) TUNSTALL This paper examines social transitions in forms of ethnographic representation from seductive play to productive force in Industry. With a focus on the hi-tech consulting and marketing fields, I examine the eight strategies of ethnographic representation include, (1) informal conversations, (2) designed printed materials, (3) video, (4) electronic presentations, (5) personas and scenarios, (6) experience models and diagrams, (7) opportunity matrices, (8) and experience metrics. It addresses the use of these strategies within modal degrees of symbolic seduction and productive force as shaped by the theories of Baudrillard and Taoist philosophy. I propose that the combination of the concepts of Seductive Play and Productive Force and Yin Yang provide a way out of several challenges in ethnography’s engagement with business decision-making, especially related to its role, mission, and power. I attempt to seduce ethnographers into seeing themselves as Taoist “scholar/warriors” able to maintain the human-centered...

A Sum Greater than the Parts: Combining Contextual Inquiry with Other Methods to Maximize Research Insights into Social Transitions

ERIN LEEDY and THEO DOWNES-LE GUIN Introduction: Why Combining Contextual Inquiry with Other Methods Maximizes Insights into Social Transitions Transitioning from “single” to “married” is a rite of passage for male adults worldwide. This transition often takes the recognized form of a marital engagement. The most prominent symbol of such an engagement in the U.S. is a diamond engagement ring, proffered to the woman as a symbol of the future union. Decisions related to selecting, purchasing, and presenting an engagement ring are momentous and personal—often completely foreign to the man prior to deciding to embark on the engagement journey. The path to engagement and marriage is clearly a personal transition, but is also linked to larger community and societal expectations as well as historical norms and traditions. Companies involved in ring selection and sales, particularly those involved in on-line ring commerce, would benefit greatly from gaining insight into this transition experienced by potential customers. Specifically,...

Skillful Strategy, Artful Navigation & Necessary Wrangling

SUZANNE L. THOMAS and TONY SALVADOR This paper addresses three main issues: the fixation on the individual in corporate research, the emic need to privilege and represent relationships driving the political and cultural economic lived experience and the pressing need to find useful, effective ways engage corporate structures that otherwise are impervious to “views of the collective”. That is, we argue for a reframing of ethnographic work in industry (in some instances) from that of the individual to that of sufficiently contextually complete relationships people have with other people and institutions, especially when working with “emerging markets.” We rely on data and sources from comparative ethnographic work over time in several countries to identify what we need to study and to suggest new, more powerful directions for our research. We also suggest implications for how to navigate within corporate structures in order to liberate ourselves and our work....

To the End of Theory-Practice ‘Apartheid’: Encountering the World

MARIETTA BABA A historical and comparative examination of ethnographic practice in sixteen nations around the globe reveals that theory-practice relations in anthropology and ethnography (A/E) have been shaped and re-shaped over time and space by complex contextual influences. This paper explores the evolution of theory-practice relationships in A/E over various regions of the world, tracing the beginning of a theory-practice ‘split’ from its origin under British colonialism, to its reappearance and institutionalization in post-World War II America, and postulating its absence in the ‘Second and Third Worlds’. Global practice in ethnography now appears to be converging toward a re-integration of theory and application across multiple disciplines and professions (a ‘hybrid’ approach), as ethnographers work to address urgent and poorly understood problems that are not well theorized....

Walking the Interface: Uncovering Practices through ‘Proxy Technology Assessment’

JO PIERSON, AN JACOBS, KATRIEN DREESSEN, ISABEL VAN DEN BROECK, BRAM LIEVENS and WENDY VAN DEN BROECK This paper describes the method of “proxy technology assessment”, which implies the formalisation of using current technological objects available on the market to generate a richer understanding of future everyday life practices with new media technologies. First, the theoretical framework grounded in theories of social constructivism and domestication is being outlined. Here the concept of “users as innovators” is placed at the centre. Next the concept and the method of proxy technology assessment is presented and elaborated. The results of a recent case study on mobile television on a handheld device are used to illustrate this method. In conclusion we reflect on the possibilities of the integration of the insights gained with this method in the design loop....

Power Point and the Crafting of Social Data

NINA WAKEFORD In this paper I suggest that we should take a closer look at how we use PowerPoint. Authoring and presenting via PowerPoint is an invisible yet pervasive part of the work involved in corporate ethnography. Rather than being a pointer to a text elsewhere PowerPoint both produces the evidence of having done the ethnographic work as well as being expected to constitute the ethnographic analysis. The challenge of such software is not that it offers the wrong cognitive style, but that presentations are ‘thick’ social events, rather than ‘thin’ devices for knowledge transfer. Drawing on recent writing in Science and Technology Studies, these thick events can be thought of as continually creating hybrids or co(a)gents. In order to maintain a critical and reflexive practice we need to develop ways of keeping open the relationship between the researcher and the PowerPoint, such as leaving traces of our own relationship to the participants within the slides, or experimenting with different kinds of time-based media....

Fertile Ground: Homegrown Loyalty Makes for Globally Competitive Industry

KERI BRONDO, MARIETTA BABA, SENGUN YENIYURT and JANELL TOWNSEND This paper proposes a theory to explain how rural sociality has influenced workforce behavior and productivity at a Global Manufacturing Systems’ automotive assembly plant in mid-Michigan. The paper argues that for over 100 years, rural and farming families in the region have been appropriating GM factories in order to sustain their rural life ways and remain part of their own ‘moral’ community. Loyalty to the company is conceptualized from the families’ perspective as a requirement of sustainable communities, motivated by an intergenerational desire to keep GM in Michigan. Employee loyalty also benefits the company by ensuring high performance and quality. The link between sociality and performance is illustrated through statistical modeling of attendance data and maps produced through ArcGIS....

Experience Models: Where Ethnography and Design Meet

RACHEL JONES This paper contributes to the ongoing debate about the role of ethnography in design. Whilst I believe that the contribution of ethnography to design has yet to be fully explored and articulated, I also hold the view that ethnography has a more effective role to play in “informing design” that goes beyond developing design guidelines, and yet involves a very different type of activity to specifying requirements. In this paper, I begin to outline the roles ethnography currently assumes in design. I explore existing ways that ethnographic research is involved in design and identify the need for a clear process. I suggest that developing an experience model would add great value to transitioning from ethnographic research to designing concepts. Though not new, experience models are not widely known nor practised. I believe that as practitioners we need to adopt experience models into our broader practice to make our findings actionable....

Larger than Life: Personal and Social Transitions within Type 2 Diabetes

LISA REICHENBACH and AMY MAISH Type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness, is reaching epidemic proportions in North America. Pharmaceutical and consumer companies alike are embracing ethnography as a means to gain insight into the condition and to meet the complex needs of diabetics. This paper explores three topics that emerged from our ethnographic work in this area. First, we discuss the contribution of ethnography towards understanding the lived experience of Type 2 diabetes. Second, we suggest Type 2 diabetes should be viewed as a meta-transition that encapsulates four types of transition, each of which is an important aspect of the diabetic experience, and which may provide critical insights in an applied context. Third, we argue that applied ethnography can be dramatically enriched by an anthropologically and theoretically informed approach, without which the experience of, and transitions within, Type 2 diabetes cannot be fully understood and the social and business benefits maximized....

Design for Healthy Living: Mobility and the Disruption of Daily Healthcare Routines

AME ELLIOTT and BRINDA DALAL This paper reports on how people express health concerns as they move around their homes and travel between their homes and workplaces, stores, gyms, restaurants, friends’ homes, hotels and other locations. We gathered stories from focus groups and in-home interviews with people with a broad range of health needs, and from these discussions, support for mobility emerged as a key issue for making health maintenance routines easy and resilient in the face of disruptions. The things people carry with them and access at strategic places help them maintain their health routines in the face of stressful and unforeseen situations....

Investigating Mobility, Technology, and Space in Homes, Starting with “Great Rooms”

SCOTT D. MAINWARING and ALLISON WOODRUFF Certain American-style homes include large multifunctional spaces, often with vaulted or otherwise high ceilings, that incorporate living, dining, and kitchen areas. As an American cultural phenomenon, these “great rooms” symbolize and instantiate a particular vision of the good life or ideal home, including for example concepts such as openness and togetherness, or in less favorable interpretations, wastefulness and lack of privacy. As such, we see great rooms as complex and contradictory symptoms of unresolved tensions in the politics of everyday life. We describe our approach of starting with a provocative and problematic topic within a larger domain of interest and examining it from a number of perspectives. We argue that sites that are contentious are particularly interesting candidates for technological innovation, in which technology is not limited to assimilating to well-established and understood processes, but rather can participate in an ongoing process, responding to and challenging...

Ethnography and Process Change in Organizations: Methodological Challenges in a Cross-cultural, Bilingual, Geographically Distributed Corporate Project

ELIZABETH CHURCHILL and JACK WHALEN We detail an ongoing, consultancy partnership, where ethnographic field methods are being used to elucidate the work practices of software engineers in a large organization. We focus on intellectual and logistical challenges that we face as a team – non-collocation; widely varying experience of ethnographic methods, local language and culture; and conflicting responsibilities and lines of accountability. We consider the social spheres in which our team members operate and the sociality of our team as a whole. As ethnographic teams are increasingly considered de rigueur within corporations for cultural translation in the face of globalization, the issues we face are likely to become more commonplace....