Intelligences

Human-Centered Data Science: A New Paradigm for Industrial IoT

MATTHEW YAPCHAIAN Uptake Few professions appear more at odds, at least on the surface, than ethnography and data science. The first deals in qualitative “truths,” gleaned by human researchers, based on careful, deep observation of only a small number of human subjects, typically. The latter deals in quantitative “truths,” mined through computer-executed algorithms, based on vast swaths of anonymous data points. To the ethnographer, “truth” involves an understanding of how and why things are truly the way they are. To the data scientist, “truth” is more about designing algorithms that make guesses that are empirically correct a good portion of the time. Data science driven products, like those that Uptake builds, are most powerful and functional when they leverage the core strengths of both data science and ethnographic insights: what we call Human-Centered Data Science. I will argue that data science, including the collection and manipulation of data, is a practice that is in many ways as human-centered and subjective...

Physicalizations of Big Data in Ethnographic Context

JACOB BUUR Design and Communication, University of Southern Denmark SARA SAID MOSLEH Design and Communication, University of Southern Denmark CHRISTINA FYHN NIELSEN Design and Communication, University of Southern Denmark With the Big Data hype, making digital data accessible and relatable for non-data experts is becoming an increasing challenge. In this paper we suggest Data Physicalization as a novel approach to facilitate conversations with collaborators about the meaning of data. While this challenge has been approached with data visualizations before, we propose that Data Physicalizations can bring stronger engagement and even more depth to the data than visualizations can offer. Based on four design examples, we investigate how data, when made physical, can be used to instigate valuable reflections between field researchers and non-data experts, and can serve as a platform for design. In all cases we worked with Data Physicalization to enhance our own understanding of the field, to engage collaborators in sense-making, and to...

Operationalizing Ethnographic Research to Grow Trust in Digital Financial Services

SOREN HEITMANN SINJA BURI FABIAN REITZUG International Finance Corporation Case Study—Trust motivates people’s uptake and use of digital financial services (DFS). Understanding the socio-cultural determinants of DFS trust are needed to scale financial access and drive financial inclusion. These are core components of international development strategies, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Universal Financial Access (UFA2020). The IFC-Mastercard Foundation Partnership for Financial Inclusion (the Partnership) conducted ethnographic research to understand factors that impact people’s attitudes and perceptions of DFS. Nine months of field work each in Cameroon, DRC, Senegal and Zambia were conducted, in collaboration with local research institutes’ Anthropology departments and the African Studies Center at the University of Leiden. The results of the ethnographic research produced a framework for understanding drivers and barriers to people growing trust in digital financial services. This paper analyzes the...

Eye Tracking in Medical Ethnography: Evaluating Evidence for Perception, Action, and Collaboration in Healthcare Professions

LARRY S. MCGRATH Design Science Consulting, Inc. Using eye tracking in ethnographic research poses numerous theoretical and practical challenges. How might devices originally intended to record individuals' vision of two-dimensional planes be useful in interpersonal contexts with dynamic visual interfaces? What would the technology reveal about collegial environments in which different levels of knowledge and expertise come together and inform decision-making processes? Why would pupil movement show us anything that conventional ethnographic methods could not? In this paper, I argue that these challenges are not intractable. When tailored to specific questions about perception, action, and collaboration, eye trackers can reveal behaviors that elude ethnographers' gaze. In so doing, the devices enrich the observational and interview-based methods already employed in ethnographic studies of workplace dynamics. Hospitals are a fruitful context in which to test the value of eye-tracking evidence. Healthcare professionals look, interpret,...

Human Sensemaking in the Smart City: A Research Approach Merging Big and Thick Data

ANNELIEN SMETS imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel BRAM LIEVENS imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel This paper aims to contribute to the debate on the integration of ethnography and data science by providing a concrete research tool to deploy this integration. We start from our own experiences with user research in a data-rich environment, the smart city, and work towards a research tool that leverages ethnographic praxis with data science opportunities. We discuss the different key components of the system, how they work together and how they allow for human sensemaking....

Contextual Analytics: Towards a Practical Integration of Human and Data Science Approaches in the Development of Algorithms

MILLIE P. ARORA MIKKEL KRENCHEL JACOB MCAULIFFE ReD Associates POORNIMA RAMASWAMY Cognizant As algorithms play an increasingly important role in the lives of people and corporations, finding more effective, ethical, and empathetic ways of developing them has become an industry imperative. Ethnography, and the contextual understanding derived from it, has the potential to fundamentally change the way that data science is done. Reciprocally, engaging with data science can help ethnographers focus their efforts, build stronger and more precise insights, and ultimately have greater impact once their work is incorporated into the algorithms that increasingly power our society. In practice, building contextually-informed algorithms requires collaboration between human science and data science teams who are willing to extend their frame of reference beyond their core skill areas. This paper aims to first address the features of ethnography and data science that make collaboration between the two more valuable than the sum of their respective...

Who and What Drives Algorithm Development: Ethnographic Study of AI Start-up Organizational Formation

RODNEY SAPPINGTON Founder, CEO, Acesio Inc. LAIMA SERKSNYTE Head of Behavioral and Organizational Research, Acesio Inc. The focus of this paper is to investigate deep learning algorithm development in an early stage start-up in which edges of knowledge formation and organizational formation were unsettled and contested. We use a debate by anthropologists Clifford Geertz and Claude Levi-Strauss to examine these contested computational forms of knowledge through a contemporary lens. We set out to explore these epistemological edges as they shift over time and as they have real practical implications in how expertise and people are valued as useful or non-useful, integrated or rejected by the practice of deep learning algorithm R&D. We discuss the nuances of epistemic silences and acknowledgments of domain knowledge and universalizing machine learning knowledge in an organization that was rapidly attempting to develop algorithms for diagnostic insights. We conclude with reflections on how an AI-Inflected Ethnography perspective...

When Customer Insights Meet Business Constraints: Building a Go-to-Market Strategy for a Smart Home Offering in a Regulated Space

ELIZABETH A. KELLEY ILLUME Advising, LLC AMANDA E. DWELLEY ILLUME Advising, LLC Case Study—This case draws on work in the energy efficiency industry where many utilities rely on data-driven insights and decision-making to encourage consumers to adopt energy-saving products and behaviors. In this highly regulated industry, utility staff must show value through big data, and studies often rely exclusively on quantitative data analytics to create behavioral models to explain or predict behavior. However, purely data-driven research often fails to answer questions about why customers behave a certain way, and what product or program managers and marketers can do about it. In this case study, the team from ILLUME Advising LLC (ILLUME), a research consultancy in the clean energy industry, illustrates how their cross-functional team paired qualitative and quantitative research on residential home energy use. The case study draws on an exploratory market and segmentation study for an electric utility interested in engaging customers...

ReHumanizing Hospital Satisfaction Data: Text Analysis, the Lifeworld, and Contesting Stakeholders’ Beliefs in Evidence

JULIA WIGNALL Seattle Children's Hospital DWIGHT BARRY Seattle Children's Hospital Case Study—Declining clinician engagement, increasing rates of burnout, and stagnant patient and family experience scores have led hospital leadership at Seattle Children's Hospital to submit requests to a data scientist and an anthropologist to identify key themes of survey comments and provide recommendations to improve experience and satisfaction. This study explored ways of understanding satisfaction as well as analytic approaches to textual data, and found that various modes of evidence, while seemingly ideal to leaders, are hard pressed to meet their expectations. Examining satisfaction survey comments via text mining, content analysis, and ethnographic investigation uncovered several specific challenges to stakeholder requests for actionable insights. Despite its hype, text mining struggled to identify actionable themes, accurate sentiment, or group distinctions that are readily identified by both content analysis and end users, while more...

Humanizing Quant and Scaling Qual to Drive Decision-Making

LAUREN MORRIS Amazon Prime Video REBECCA GATI Amazon Prime Video Case Study—The Amazon Prime Video User Experience (UX) Research team endeavored to balance qualitative and quantitative insights and translate them into the currency that drives the business, specifically customer engagement, to improve decision-making. Researchers conducted foundational qualitative research to uncover what matters most to Prime Video customers, translated resulting insights into a set of durable, measurable customer outcomes, and developed a global, longitudinal online survey program that validated the importance and perception of these outcomes at scale. Researchers then systematically linked customers’ attitudinal survey results to their usage patterns and overall satisfaction with the service. The resulting data showed how investing in improving a customer outcome is likely to increase service engagement, thus closing the loop between insights and business metrics for the first time. Prime Video executive leadership has not only embraced...

International Business Ethnography: Are We Looking for Cultural Differences?

YUUKI HARA Hitachi, Ltd. Research & Development Group LYNN SHADE Independent UX Research & Design Consultant In international business ethnography, clients and subjects don’t share the same background. Without an understanding of the underlying factors affecting the subject’s behaviors, data can lead to false home-market based assumptions about cause and effect. Where do we as researchers look to detect meaningful findings in international contexts? Drawing on our decades of international fieldwork, we describe how focusing on culture or cultural differences to interpret differences in workflows and attitudes can sometimes hamper accurate interpretation of observations. We describe through case studies how instead, identifying foundation factors shaping behaviors and mindsets such as market forces, government policy, labour markets, and financial schemas can be the key to insight in international contexts. Keywords: Ethnography, International, Japan, fieldwork, workflow, products and systems, user research, UX,...

Towards an Archaeological-Ethnographic Approach to Big Data: Rethinking Data Veracity

SHAOZENG ZHANG Program of Applied Anthropology, Oregon State University BO ZHAO Program of Geography, Oregon State University JENNIFER VENTRELLA Program of Mechanical Engineering and Program of Applied Anthropology, Oregon State University For its volume, velocity, and variety (the 3 Vs), big data has been ever more widely used for decision-making and knowledge discovery in various sectors of contemporary society. Since recently, a major challenge increasingly recognized in big data processing is the issue of data quality, or the veracity (4th V) of big data. Without addressing this critical issue, big data-driven knowledge discoveries and decision-making can be very questionable. In this paper, we propose an innovative methodological approach, an archaeological-ethnographic approach that aims to address the challenge of big data veracity and to enhance big data interpretation. We draw upon our three recent case studies of fake or noise data in different data environments. We approach big data as but another kind of human...

Acting on Analytics: Accuracy, Precision, Interpretation, and Performativity

JEANETTE BLOMBERG IBM Research ALY MEGAHED IBM Research RAY STRONG IBM Research Case Study—We report on a two-year project focused on the design and development of data analytics to support the cloud services division of a global IT company. While the business press proclaims the potential for enterprise analytics to transform organizations and make them ‘smarter’ and more efficient, little has been written about the actual practices involved in turning data into ‘actionable’ insights. We describe our experiences doing data analytics within a large global enterprise and reflect on the practices of acquiring and cleansing data, developing analytic tools and choosing appropriate algorithms, aligning analytics with the demands of the work and constraints on organizational actors, and embedding new analytic tools within the enterprise. The project we report on was initiated by three researchers; a mathematician, an operations researcher, and an anthropologist well-versed in practice-based technology design, in collaboration...

How Modes of Myth-Making Affect the Particulars of DS/ML Adoption in Industry

EMANUEL MOSS CUNY Graduate Center / Data & Society FRIEDERIKE SCHÜÜR Cloudera Fast Forward Labs The successes of technology companies that rely on data to drive their business hints at the potential of data science and machine learning (DS/ML) to reshape the corporate world. However, despite the headway made by a few notable titans (e.g., Google, Amazon, Apple) and upstarts, the advances that are advertised around DS/ML have yet to be realized on a broader basis. The authors examine the tension between the spectacular image of DS/ML and the realities of applying the latest DS/ML techniques to solve industry problems. The authors discern two distinct ways, or modes, of thinking about DS/ML woven into current marketing and hype. One mode focuses on the spectacular capabilities of DS/ML. It expresses itself through one-off, easy-to-grasp marketable projects, such as DeepMind’s AlphaGo (Zero). The other mode focuses on DS/ML’s potential to transform industry. Hampered by an emphasis on tremendous but as of yet unrealized...

Regarding the Pain of Users: Towards a Genealogy of the Pain Point

DAVID PLATZER Berggruen Institute This essay offers an analysis of the “pain point,” a commonplace figure of speech in UX design and contemporary business contexts more broadly. By situating this everday trope within a wider discourse of pain, and its politiciztion in the United States, I seek to problematize the modes of relationality and forms of care entailed in the practice of design research. Ultimately, I will argue, while the “pain point” can be an effective tool for communicating with stakeholders and fomenting alignment about research objectives, it also implicates the more troubling ethical dimensions of applied practice. Through a narrative account of an innovation focused ethnographic research project conducted within the design unit of a major tech company, I argue that questions of solidarity, and its contemporary aporias, can be obscured by the humanitarian rhetoric of contemporary design praxis; a rhetoric of which the “pain point” is a prime example....