Intelligences

Ethnographic ‘Weirdness’: Attending to Indicators of the Unfamiliar

CHARLEY SCULL Filament Insight & Innovation This presentation begins with ethnographic research of an Indonesian tuna fishery in which a field partner describes unfamiliar cultural behavior as ‘weird’. Using that moment as a starting point, the paper then undertakes a reflection on the usage and meaning of the term. It explores ‘weirdness’ through a range of core tenets, like cultural relativism, empathy and ethnocentrism and then plays with the meaning of weirdness across a number of disciplinary and market lenses. The talk builds to a provocation about the ways in which ‘weird’ can serve as a call to action. It concludes that researchers should use ‘weird’ as an indicator that helps them know where they need to dig deeper, in search of empathic understanding and where they need to reconcile their biases. By doing so, the talk argues, we are giving agency to the data which we don't yet understand. Charley Scull is a visual anthropologist, ethnographer, insight strategist and UX researcher. He has worked...

Out to Dry: Change and Agency Across Urban China

ZACH HYMAN EPAM Continuum PechaKucha Presentation This PechaKucha will take the audience on an intimate, visual exploration of the evolving ways that clothing is dried outside across urban China as drying practices are forced to adapt to limitations by evolving regulation and perceptions of urban modernity. Increasingly, engaging in this social practice requires an act of agency against both municipal governments and one's own neighbors in China. While drying one's laundered clothing outdoors remains a standard part of rural life, both the legal and physical space for this practice has shrunk during China's massive urbanization. This practice is being replaced by bureaucrats’ desire to stimulate domestic consumption (of appliances, in this case) and their desire to erase from cities what is considered a visual embarrassment of laundry hanging out of windows and between buildings. Today when something in urban China needs drying outside of one's privately owned space, one must assert agency over a slice of public space: A...

Self-Ethnography: Or, How I Earned my Berkeley Citizenship in an Ethnographic Journey through the Crunchy Granola and the Scientific

BETH SCHWINDT Autodesk PechaKucha Presentation A researcher who used to combine “thinking + feeling” lines on a journey map found herself on the feelings frontier by widely exploring new innovations in neuroscience, psychology, and mind-body connection, alongside the resurgence in popularity of “old” ways of healing – chinese medicine, crystals, tarot cards. Through her self-ethnographic journey, she found that by stripping back ethnography from the measurable, the scientific, the business cases she rediscovered its foundational backbone to carefully tune into and interpret feelings. She redefines ethnography as about finding truth and not judging it – even the parts that don't make sense right away and asserts that believing the tiny fragments of feelings and glimmers of intuition is the future of our practice. The new science and the old wisdom revealed that feelings are the root of agency, or “the feelings we have a say in the world we live in and experience, and it is our new frontier to help people articulate...

Center Frame: Agency in the Lives of Researchers

BRANDY PARKER IA Collaborative PechaKucha Presentation We try to avoid being on camera, but as researchers, are we ever really out of frame? Centered around a life-changing project that had lackluster results, this piece is a meditation on our agency, or lack of agency, as researchers. Our work gives us unique glimpses into worlds no one else is privy to, and what we experience changes us. At times, the most powerful advancement of our work is in our own lives. Brandy Parker is a Senior Research & Design Strategist at IA Collaborative. With a background in ethnography, psychology, and nutrition, she brings a unique whole-person perspective to both medicine and the design world. She works at the intersection of her passions for human-centered design, research, and health care. Citation: 2019 EPIC Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...

Robots and the Fallacy of Agency

STEWART ALLEN Fuse Foresight PechaKucha Presentation What if I told you, that humans are not very special? That the very qualities that make us human are not pre-given features but are rather properties generated by our participation in the world at large. In this view, humans are not mere expressions of blueprints. Rather, we are shaped and fashioned in the course of our lives by many different environments. This presentation challenges the notion of agency itself through an exploration of a recent project we conducted on service robots and human interaction. I raise questions on the nature of our humanness and the idea of ‘humanity’ as a special, protected class. If we set aside humans as special and unique, we tend to then dehumanise and downscale everything that is non-human, setting the stage for our current malaise where our environment is objectified as a resource to be used up as quickly as possible. I conclude that a shared and sustainable world is one where the qualities of life are accorded to all things, human...

Ethnography’s Role in Seeing the AI’s Blind Spots: Living amongst AI—Agency of the Household

LAIYEE HO Delve PechaKucha Presentation Home automation has made big promises for utilizing intelligent technology to help the lives of everyday people, but the potential of the technology can only be as good as our understanding of the world we are trying to improve. In this PechaKucha, I share insights from my years of conducting ethnography in homes where families have lived alongside AI and automated technology. Our initial tries at intelligent technology in the home were modeled after our own assumptions, but it failed to account for the full variables of the ‘household’, which had an agency of its own. When technology has the potential to disrupt not only our workflows, but relationships between people in the home, it's the responsibility of technologists and ethnographers to provide the critical human perspective necessary for technology to live in harmony with people. LaiYee Ho is the co-founder of Delve (www.delvetool.com), where she pours her years of experience as a UX researcher and designer into creating...

Boundary Crossings: Collaborative Robots and Human Workers

BRUCE PIETRYKOWSKI Social Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn MICHAEL FOLSTER Behco-MRM Agency and automation is explored through three case studies of the use of Cobots – collaborative robots – in three different auto production firms. The business challenges faced by these firms include labor shortages, quality control and reduction of waste. The Cobot solution resulted in different effects on agency through (1) agency task displacement, (2) agency enhancement and (3) agency expansion. In addition, the individual characteristics of the workplace structure also mediated the effects of Cobots on agency. In the first case (Uno Motors) Fordist technology and the presence of a union ensured that Cobots were deployed instrumentally. The second case (Duo Global Technologies) was one in which Cobots were flexibly deployed to meet changing production demands. The third case (Trio) went furthest in integrating Cobots into the production process as co-workers requiring new workplace relationships together with the potential...

Change Agent: Lessons on Power and Failure from Eight Years of Systems Research & Policy Design

CHELSEA MAULDIN Executive Director, Public Policy Lab PechaKucha Presentation Drawing on nearly a decade of research and design engagements with U.S. federal and municipal governments, I'll describe a gap between intended outcomes of government policies and the lived experience of people affected by those policies. I'll discuss how that gap arises from variances in the decision-making agency of policymakers and members of the public. Next, I'll discuss how human-centered researchers and designers attempt to equalize government/public agency though interventions in the policy decision-making cycle. Then I'll suggest criticisms and shortfalls of current human-centered approaches to improving policy and service-delivery systems, including researchers and designers’ tendencies to amplify complexity, to extract value from the public, and to accept status quo inequality. Finally I'll propose that, when using research and design as tools for positive policy and systems change and increased agency for marginalized peoples,...

Designing for Dynamics of Agency in NYC Homeless Shelters

NATALIA RADYWYL The Public Policy Lab; The School for Visual Arts Public sector innovation (PSI) is an emerging multidisciplinary field that is attracting practitioners from a wide range of sectors and industries, with a correspondingly broad set of skills and experience. PSI aims to significantly improve the services that a government has the responsibility to provide by taking a user-centered, partnership-based approach, from service content development through to methods of service provision (OECD 2012). Yet the work is complex and not without risk, if undertaken without appropriate foresight, thoughtfulness, and rigor. In particular, when it comes to pursuing PSI in the design of social service policy and its provision, some of the more substantial risks lie hidden in systemic power imbalances that can easily be exacerbated, despite practitioners’ best intentions. This article uses a case study about homeless service provision in New York City (NYC) to offer a candid portrayal of undertaking research and design work in...

Calibrating Agency: Human-Autonomy Teaming and the Future of Work amid Highly Automated Systems

LAURA CESAFSKY Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley ERIK STAYTON Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley, MIT MELISSA CEFKIN Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley This paper explores how the design of everyday interactions with artificial intelligence in work systems relates to broader issues of interest to social scientists and ethicists: namely human well-being and social inequality. The paper uses experience designing human interactions with highly automated systems as a lens for looking at the social implications of work design, and argues that what human and automation each do is less important than how human and automation are structured to interact. The Human-Autonomy Teaming (HAT) paradigm, explored in the paper, has been a promising alternative way to think about human interactions with automation in our laboratory's research and development work. We argue that the notion of teaming is particularly useful in that it encourages designers to consider human well-being as central to the operational success...

The Human Agency Driverless Cars Must Preserve

ELIOT SALANDY BROWN ReD Associates KATY OSBORN ReD Associates In 2016, we set out to understand the future of driverless mobility—and specifically, how a mobility company can build products and services that will optimize the relationships between people and advanced assistive systems in an increasingly automated future. This case study will shed light on how an ethnographic approach inspired by actor-network theory allowed us to look closely at human-system interactions, build a unique perspective on the forms of agency people value most, and understand how mobility companies can harness this understanding to build automated systems that strengthen their relationships with consumers. Drawing from the core tenets of actor-network theory, our research placed an emphasis not on individuals or even broader social ecologies—but rather, shifting networks of relationships between humans, objects, ideas, and processes. We divided our resources between two research tracks: i) human mobility, studying the complex network of relationships...

Empowered, Confident, and Prepared: Driving Chatbot Product Vision through User Research

MOLLY MAHAR Salesforce GREGORY A. BENNETT Salesforce This case study explores how a series of customer site visits to two international service centers drove design recommendations for a chatbot building platform that could encourage positive agent-chatbot collaboration. The first part of the case focuses on the research undertaken by a team of user experience practitioners at the enterprise software company Salesforce. The team used contextual inquiry and group interviews to better understand the daily experience of customer service agents and service teams in search of ways to responsibly implement automation tools like chatbots within a service center environment. The second part of the case study highlights how the UX team applied these learnings into specific product recommendations and developed a set of principles that could drive the product forward while remaining empathetic and supportive of customer service agents....

Can Any Hairdresser Fix a Car?: Mechanics Seeking Agency in Automated Car Diagnostic Contexts, and How Observing Agency Can Help Designing a Car Diagnostic Tool

CHLOÉ HUIE BRICKERT _unknowns GUILLAUME MONTAGU _unknowns As part of an international research conducted for a French car manufacturer, a team of anthropologists and designers were asked to analyze the use of a car diagnostic tool by mechanics in their garages, in order to recommend ways of improving it. A single glance at the diagnostic tool’s interface was enough to get a feel for mechanics’ new reality: lines of codes and numbers, webpages filled with blue hyperlinks leading to readymade repair methods. Does being a mechanic in an automation era mean anything anymore? Based on findings from a study conducted in 5 countries with mixed ethnographic and UX methods, this case study explicits the interest of understanding mechanics as a profession – or even more, as an art – before studying the use of the tool itself, and mostly, it demonstrates how solutions can be contained in agency – and how design and tech teams can find inspiration from bypasses, local initiatives, and informal rituals. From supervising an international...

Getting Us There: Ride-Hailing Systems from the Drivers’ Perspectives

KEITH S. KARN Human Factors in Context LLC WILLIAM E. HUTSON IBM Now that they are beyond the initial start-up phase, it is time to take a critical look at ride-hailing systems such as Uber and Lyft. This ethnographic case study investigates these systems from the drivers’ perspectives and also addresses the ethnographic techniques and general approach that we used. Without a protocol, budget or equipment, we interviewed approximately 150 Uber, Lyft, and Taxi drivers in 23 US cities over 2 years during paid rides. Our loosely structured interview approach allowed us to collect information from drivers regarding the entire gamut of their jobs. This included how and why drivers work, their choice of work hours, rider pickups, driving, vehicle ownership and maintenance, rider behavior, perceptions of safety / danger, navigation, general likes and dislikes of the system, and financial matters related to their business. Our findings cover a wide range of issues, some bearing on poorly designed or missing functionality in the driver's...

Speculative Futures inside Corporate Realities

BEN KUESTER Allstate MEGAN PRESCOTT Allstate The auto insurance industry is being disrupted by insurtechs that are leveraging data and technology to solve pain points in parts of the customer journey, while emerging technology in adjacent industries threatens insurance as it currently exists. As a result, insurance companies are imagining futures beyond traditional insurance and new ways that they might meet the needs of future customers. In order to explore what a reframing of insurance as “protection” could mean to customers, we utilized ethnographic methods and speculative design practices to reimagine how the transition from non-driver to young driver and from dependent child to independent adult could be more fully supported by an insurance company. In this case study, we review both the methodological processes and summarize learnings and opportunities critical to applying ethnofutures and speculative design practices within a large corporate setting, including: proposing a new approach to a diverse group of stakeholders;...