Susan Faulkner

Accelerating Collaboration with Social Tools

ALEXANDRA MACK and DINA MEHTA As more and more corporate ethnographic work is crossing international borders, we are increasingly collaborating with teams that are spread across the globe. As a result, we need tools that enable us to work across boundaries. Since early 2004, the authors have been collaborating on a research project developed by an American company seeking to develop solutions specific to the Indian market. One of us, an Indian sociologist, led a team of ethnographers in India, while the other, an American anthropologist, managed research and analysis for concept development in the US. While all of the US-based team members spent time in the field in India during the project, integrating the teams into the same “brainspace” was a challenge. This paper describes how we used social tools to enable each set of team members to understand the work being done on the other side of the world....

Irrational Choices, Unfathomable Outcomes: Patient Ethnographies in Pharmaceutical Research

ARI SHAPIRO With the proliferation of oral therapies (in place of injectables) for many chronic conditions, the locus of medical treatment is shifting from the surveilled context of the clinic to the private space of the home. In the home, compliance and persistency – the extent to which patients take medications over time – have become pressing concerns. Non-compliance adversely affects health outcomes, and costs manufacturers millions. The medical community has difficulty understanding non-compliance, often relegating it to individual irrationality or dysfunction in the doctor-patient relationship. Ethnography opens up the issue by entering the private space of pill-taking to understand the beliefs, relationships, and activities that contribute to patient (non-)compliance....

Celebrating the Cutting Edge

CHRISTINA WASSON This paper examines and celebrates the notion of the “cutting edge” as it applies to ethnographic praxis in industry. First of all, EPIC is the first-ever business anthropology conference. Secondly, the conference is just one example of the growth and mainstreaming of the field of design anthropology. Thirdly, the field of design is, after all, all about innovation, and anthropologists who work in this area can provide examples of leading practices to anthropologists working in other domains of application. At the same time, design anthropologists can also learn from more mature varieties of practice. For instance, thoughtful practitioners in other fields have come to regard themselves as “scholar-practitioners,” rejecting the dichotomization of scholarship and practice. Adopting such an identity would serve those design anthropologists well who are engaged in branding efforts to highlight the importance of their analytical training and skills....

Using Photographic Data to Build a Large-scale Global Comparative Visual Ethnography of Domestic Spaces: Can a Limited Data Set Capture the Complexities of ‘Sociality’?

SIMON PULMAN-JONES This paper describes an innovative attempt to construct a large-scale, global comparative visual ethnography of domestic spaces, and uses the notion of ‘sociality’ to interrogate the ability of such a broad but relatively thin data set to do justice to ethnography’s potential to capture and communicate the salience of the socially co-constructed contexts of people’s lives. Whilst noting the risks inherent in using data sets that exclude information about social context and meanings, it argues that working within the confines of these deficiencies can be turned to positive account to drive both theoretical innovation and analytical rigor....

Ethnography and the “Extra Data” Opportunity

GRANT MCCRACKEN My profession has a problem. It is awash in hacks and pretenders. I am guessing that 1 in 3 ethnographers is more or less incompetent. It is easy to identify some of the offenders. Some of them actually claim to be “self trained.” Others are focus-group moderators simply renamed. Some actually claim competence on the grounds that they “roomed with an anthropology major in college.” There has to be a way to separate the sheep from the goats, and we have to do it fast. Commercial ethnography could easily go the way of the focus group. Every so often there are murmurs that would take us in the direction of certification. But I don't think this is a great idea. It would be expensive, time consuming, bureaucratic. Worst of all, there are some practitioners who are very good indeed but have no training or disciplinary credential to call their own. (Conversely, there are anthropologists with splendid academic qualifications who can not do an ethnographic interview to save their lives.) I proposed that we might...

The Worst Technology for Girls?

WENDY MARCH and CONSTANCE FLEURIOT The aim of the research was to discover how teen girls use technology in relation to privacy practices in their everyday lives. Asking teenage girls to describe the worst technology they could imagine was a fruitful way of exploring their feelings towards location-awareness, tracking and surveillance in particular and served as inspiration for the design of concepts which embody many of their concerns....

Configuring Living Labs for a ‘Thick’ Understanding of Innovation

JO PIERSON and BRAM LIEVENS The paper examines the living lab as an approach within communication studies for examining the naturalistic involvement of users in ICT design, based on ethnographic principles. First a more precise definition of the living lab is presented, indicating the epistemological background. Next the different phases of our living lab configuration are elaborated, illustrated by a research project on a handheld electronic reading device (e-paper). Finally we discuss the value of this approach for companies involved in ICT research and design. In the conclusion also the advantages on product development level and social level are indicated....

Physical Artifacts for Promoting Bilingual Collaborative Design

AME ELLIOTT Physical artifacts, such as sticky notes and mock-ups, are widely used in Human-Computer Interaction research for supporting the collaborative design of technology. Because these representations use channels of communication other than speaking and listening, they offer the potential to facilitate collaboration in bilingual groups working through an interpreter. This paper identifies challenges of bilingual design meetings based on technology development collaborations between Silicon Valley corporate research organizations and two different Japanese companies. Three of the most successful physical artifacts used in these meetings are described to illustrate ways of supporting bilingual collaboration. After discussion of the specific contributions of these artifacts, general recommendations for bilingual collaborative design meetings are discussed. The paper concludes with the recommendation that careful choreography of the work area is necessary to ensure every participant has access to the physical artifacts necessary...

The Baker’s Dozen: The Presence of the Gift in Service Encounters

BRINDA DALAL and PATRICIA WALL This paper explores whether or not Marcel Mauss’s concept of the gift is applicable to understanding the diverse roles that ethnographers assume in corporate environments. Kneading together the themes of gift exchange from anthropological literature on the one hand and “Representations” from the participatory design research community on the other; we suggest that the artifacts we create and share with customers actually evoke the presence of the gift in customer interactions. We argue that specific types of representations - a key component in our methodological toolkit - may be likened to the thirteenth loaf in the baker’s dozen; given to the customer to demonstrate equitable partnerships, enhance communication and garner trust in a perpetually changing marketplace. Using case studies, we examine how these objects illuminate the complexity of our own sociality in professional settings and furthermore, help to deepen or transform customer service engagements....

Social Relationships in the Modern Tribe: Product Selection as Symbolic Markers

DAN M. BRUNER A manufacturer of work clothes wanted to learn how workers use and experience its products to enhance marketing and sales. After a multi-sited field study, I learned that more critical than individuals or persona were the social practices that emerged within particular social units. Different work crews established their own distinctive patterns of clothing use which served as symbolic markers of group identity. Workers adduced functional attributes to explain sociality-based choices....

Fieldwork and Ethnography: A Perspective from CSCW

DAVE RANDALL, RICHARD HARPER and MARK ROUNCEFIELD PREAMBLE What value does ‘ethnography’ have in the design of organizational and technological change? We ask this question in light of the fact that ethnography, whatever it might mean or entail, has been a key component of systems and organization design research for some time and has become—seemingly unproblematically—almost the sine qua non of contemporary practice in Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW), the area in which we have plied our trade. Indeed, one can plausibly claim that CSCW was the first (and conceivably remains the only) interdisciplinary perspective in which some version of fieldwork, namely of an ethnographic kind, has become the default mechanism for intervening in design. On the face of it, however, the dominance of ‘ethnography’ as this default fieldwork approach in CSCW sits rather uneasily beside the contested nature of ethnography, and particularly the examination of the reflexive relationship between fieldworker, subject and field,...

Craft, Value, and The Fetishism of Method

NINA WAKEFORD In order to set the scene for the panel on methods, I will be drawing on C Wright Mills’ injunction to avoid the fetishism of method. Mills urges us to think about our methods in terms of a process of craft production. I want to explore what key elements of this craft might be, beyond the usual focus on actual techniques such as interviewing or ethnographically informed data collection. Foregrounding the papers in the session, I will examine ideas of value, temporality and transformation (and perhaps even transgression)....

The Coming of Age of Hybrids: Notes on Ethnographic Praxis

JEANETTE BLOMBERG It has been nearly 15 years since Donna Haraway wrote in Simians, Cyborgs and Women that, “In so far as we know ourselves in both formal discourse and in daily practice we find ourselves to be cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras.” While Haraway’s referent was not the community of practitioners, scholars and change agents assembled for the EPIC conference, her attention to the particular arrangements of material goods, human labor and social relations in processes and histories that have consequences for people’s lives resonates with the themes addressed in the workshops and with concerns that bring many of us to this conference. In this talk I will explore how ethnographic praxis is constituted in and through our focus on the here and now of everyday practice by which logical divisions and dualism such as material – social, virtual – real, local –global, spiritual – secular are unmasked. Recognizing both our hybrid subjects and our hybrid identities, I will suggest we turn the analytic lens on ourselves...

Grass Roots Campaigning as Elective Sociality (or Maffesoli Meets ‘Social Software’): Lessons from the BBC iCan Project

STOKES JONES This paper is based on ethnographic research during the development phase of the BBC iCan website. It discusses how we defined the object of study that would become the focus of the site—“grass roots campaigning” and how following two stages of research we found the site’s early planning (influenced by the ‘social software’ movement) needed to recognize the deeply contextual nature of this practice—and avoid attempting to mediate the majority of a campaign online. Working with Maffesoli’s theories of ‘sociality’; we understood grass roots campaigns to be rooted in experiential “being together” and less ‘individual’ and ‘political; than commonly perceived....

Magic Thinking

GENEVIEVE BELL I realize that there are a couple of things I wanted to do in this talk, but it requires a little bit of an explanation at the outset. This is a talk about how we make sense of the sociotechnical imagination. It is a term I promise that I will unpack. This is not a talk about ethnographic fieldwork. This is not a talk about product design or design thinking. This is however, for my mind, a piece of classic anthropological work. It is an intervention into how we think about and talk about products; our relationships to them, and the ways in which we choose to embrace them, resist them, break them, love them and make sense of them. It also takes as its starting point a kind of classic, I think, anthropological conversation which is about magic. It is kind of fun to be doing it in this building at this moment in time.This is a talk in some ways influenced by people like James Frasier, who stood in this place nearly a hundred years ago and talked about magic and magical thinking. For me the book The Golden Bough is sort...