Intelligences

Making Silence Matter: The Place of the Absences in Ethnography

BRIAN RAPPERT Professional and organizational attention in recent years to what ethnographers can and cannot disclose as part of their research accounts has extended the range and relevance of concerns pertaining to the relation between investigators and those they study. When researchers are working under conditions characterised by secrecy and a limited access to information, then the difficulties faced in offering accounts are all the more acute. This presentation examines the political, ethical, and epistemological challenges associated with how we manage what is missing within our writing. The argument is based on an ethnographic-type engagement over a five-year period. I want to consider the representational implications of the disclosure rules, confidentiality agreements, informal arrangements, etc. associated with contemporary research; in particular their implications for how knowledge claims are substantiated and reproduced. I also want to go further though to ask what novel writing strategies and methods could enable us to...

A Little Humility, Please

RICK E. ROBINSON “Things, not, mind you, individual things, but the whole system of things, with their internal order, make us the people we are.” Danny Miller, Stuff (p. 53) The fall of Icarus—wax melting, loosed feathers eddying as he plunges from the sky into the Aegean— is a central image in western mythology. A metaphor for the risks of hubris, it is also a provocative figure through which to think about the value which ethnographic research claims and the range of reactions to those claims. In 14th and 15th century painting, the Fall of Icarus was a relatively common theme for artists (and their patrons). But it was commonly related with a different emphasis than the way we recount the myth today: in the great Italian and Northern Renaissance paintings, it is Daedalus, father to Icarus, who is the sympathetic center of the tale. As inventor of both the fabulous wings and the labyrinth from which they enabled father and son to escape, Daedalus the craftsman, architect and inventor was resourceful, competent, and –except...

How Consumers Create Value in a Recession Economy

TIMOTHY DE WAAL MALEFYT This essay examines a conscious shift in the cultural flows of consumption practices. It explores the ways consumers are generating and sharing shopping competence as a new form of value. I argue that a shift in consumer consciousness and resulting open social discourse around shopping practices are creating a new consumption narrative in the recession. This narrative celebrates the resourceful and collective acts of people who transform modes of restriction (cutting back) into a positive social value of thrift. As people are practicing more thoughtful purchasing styles they are also more communicative with others in sharing their shopping strategies and ways of savings. Social changes are thus arising out of these adjustments in shopping behaviors. Such emergent shopping behaviors amplify a new sociability that demonstrates more appropriate ways to spend and save on commodities. This change shows that consumers are not just accepting new attitudes and behaviors towards shopping because they have to, but are...

Lead Type, Dead Type: New Patterns of Local News Production and Consumption

ELIZABETH CHURCHILL and JEFF UBOIS Newspapers are in trouble. Steep declines in circulation and advertising revenue have forced outright closures, reductions in force, cessation of print in favor of web only editions and frantic searches for additional sources of revenue and audience. In this paper, we report results from an interview study focused on everyday news consumption practices. Our study indicates there are many design opportunities for local news creation and distribution at interface/interaction, infrastructure and strategy levels....

Consumerization and Renewing Peoples and Practices Research

DAWN NAFUS, ROGERIO DE PAULA, KATHI KITNER, RENEE KURIYAN and SCOTT D. MAINWARING This paper documents the beginnings of Intel’s recently launched Consumerization project, and uses these early experiences as a way into exploring new paths to business relevance and impact. These paths weave in and out of the increasingly institutionalized position of corporate ethnography as research that takes place before products are designed. These paths are one response to wider transformations in the business environment, and are not a general prescription, “ethnography should now do X in corporations.” However, this project does embody a significant move away from past modalities of conducting and applying research, and in doing so reveals broader possibilities for ethnography that may prove viable for others in different contexts. We begin by providing some institutional history and exploring the wider industry transformations that compelled us to design a research project in the way that we did. The paper goes on to describe our approach...

Tangible Steps Toward Tomorrow: Designing a Vision for Early Childhood Education

HILLARY CAREY and SUZANNE GIBBS HOWARD “The area of early education is experiencing tremendous experimentation and progress, but what has been missing are right brain thinkers. These are individuals whose craft is seeing patterns, making connections, adapting what works in one context to the realities of another context.” – Tony Berkley, Program Director, Youth and Education, The W. K. Kellogg Foundation In 2007 the W. K. Kellogg Foundation engaged the innovation and design firm, IDEO, to design a compelling vision for the future of early childhood education. The foundation was ready for a new perspective on a well-explored topic. IDEO’s design thinking approach engaged the foundation and its stakeholders in new ways that promoted feasible, yet innovative, solutions. In this paper we describe the combined use of ethnographic-style research and design thinking in a project addressing a complex, systemic and philanthropic challenge: public education in the United States. We seek to provide the reader with a clear and convincing...

Keynote Address

HOWARD TULLMAN Flashpoint Academy In this talk I spoke from my long experience in starting and building entrepreneurial businesses and, more importantly, about my more recent work in turning around several failing institutions and the many challenges of effectively implementing and managing change in established businesses even in the face of existential threats to their continued well-being. Change is easy—overcoming the resistance to change takes a little more work and a great deal of patience and preparation. In applying the lessons from my various adventures to our industry’s present concerns and issues, I started with a simple suggestion. In today’s aggressively “dollar and sense” economy, where it is crucial to demonstrate and justify virtually every activity (and especially research and analysis) to senior management, it’s important to have a strategy and approach which makes the value and relevance of your activities apparent to the entire organization. My suggestion was that we turn the “tools of our trade”...

Renewing Our Practice: Preparing the Next Generation of Practitioners

SUSAN SQUIRES and ALEXANDRA MACK A key aspect of renewal is disciplinary renewal though the addition of new practitioners, who can bring revitalization to our practice. To successfully land their first job, today’s new practitioners need practical, relevant basic skills and knowledge, which they can acquire through a range of training programs. In this paper, we reflect upon the significant methodological, interpretive, ethical implications of such training programs for ethnographic praxis in industry. How they evolve and change the work, how new knowledge is created in the field and what that may mean for the future renewal of our practice begins with how they are trained....

Flux: Creating the Conditions for Change

MARIA BEZAITIS and KEN ANDERSON To start to shape directions for new business opportunities, and to remain attentive to changing business landscapes, ethnographic practice must produce knowledge about the social world by looking at relevant shifts in social frames and then use this knowledge to shape the informed fictions that will move business climates and interests. Flux is an approach that demonstrates one way to evolve the work from its traditional focus on design and making good products to the development of new business models. This approach emerges from very specific sets of changes taking place presently in the technology sector and the desire to apply ethnography, interpretive work, theory to figure more explicitly as the central mediation between businesses and the social world....

Harmonizing Human Eyes with Digital Sensors

HIROSHI TAMURA and TAMAMI SUGASAKA In this article we report on our research that focused on enhancing shopping experiences by introducing new media services in the physical environment of grocery shopping. Since we were interested in situated shopper’s experiences we conducted fieldwork. In particular, we paid attention to the holistic grocery shopping process because a shopping experience is, as we suggest, more than a composition of discrete actions and/or feelings towards a shopping arena. Rather it is a type of narrative featuring various vignettes. In addition to pure ethnographic observation, digital sensors were used as a complementary means to observe shopper’s experiences, since digital-sensor observation enabled us to record shopper’s entire moment-to-moment behaviors with unified metrics, i.e. digital sensors served to complement our perceptions that turned out to be less reliable in terms of consistency; under these conditions of time-space transition, observers face difficulties to become aware of subtle changes...

Enabling Our Voices to Be Heard

RICH RADKA Identifying differences in how ethnography is practiced in academia and in business is the key to successfully developing ethnography further as a business discipline. In the following paper, I propose that the key difference between the practice of ethnography in academia versus business is the purpose of the ethnography, and that all other questions we struggle with in the transition from academia to industry clearly flow from this difference in purpose. Addressing this difference honestly is the key to being heard correctly, even to being heard at all. By describing how business disciplines are conceptually structured and by exemplifying analogous disciplines, I will provide thoughts on how we might shift the way we think and talk about business ethnography. I believe this shift will enable us to find common ground with other disciplines, be recognized for delivering clear value to the businesses we work for, and create opportunities for making positive contributions to society at large. Finally, I will conclude by summarizing...

Ethnography and Music: Disseminating Ethnographic Research inside Organizations

LUIS ARNAL and ROBERTO HOLGUIN In the applied context of ethnography its value depends not only on the quality of the research product alone but also on how it is received by the business audience. This paper presents some variables that describe and hope to overcome common barriers to the appropriate reception of ethnographic research in the business context. We are using music as a metaphor to the discussion of barriers and research use....

Numbers May Speak Louder than Words, but Is Anyone Listening? The Rhythmscape and Sales Pipeline Management

MELISSA CEFKIN In this paper I explore the often fleeting, seemingly constrained acts of expression performed through participation in everyday, routinized actions and practices. The vehicle I use for this exploration is the tools, processes and practices sales professionals use to manage the list of possible sales opportunities, or sales pipeline. I give particular attention to the meetings in which sales professionals and their managers discuss the pipeline. The element of talk, with its potential for unruliness, plays a central role in this otherwise hyper-rationalized activity focused around numbers, accounting and calculability. I suggest that to understand such signification processes and the forms of meaning that emerge through them we must look beyond the content of enunciated statements to consider the forms they take over time. I propose that participation in the sales pipeline process, particularly the meetings, forms a part of sales-people’s rhythmscape of work. By situating sites of expression in the notion of a rhythmscape,...

The Built Environment: Exploration toward a New Paradigm

DOROTHY DEASY, ERIK LUCKEN, WILLIAM DOWELL, GRETCHEN GSCHEIDLE and LAURA LEENHOUTS For most businesses, group work is the way in which ideas are given voice. In this study, ethnographic research was conducted to explore group work and the environments in which it occurs. The research provides context for architects and designers who are conceiving improvements or reinventing the ways the built environment (e.g., furnishings, décor and architecture) influences the outcome of group activities. The research took place in two phases; phase one sought to develop a set of observable hypotheses and phase two sought to validate the hypotheses through observation. In the first phase “embedded reporters” were recruited from Herman Miller and Gensler staff to serve as observers of their own group work and to report on idea flow, knowledge transfer, size of groups, reasons for working together, stage of process, etc. During the second phase of the study, an ethnographic researcher shadowed a “hub” person skilled in group work for 1 –...

ICT4D => ICT4X: Mitigating the Impact of Cognitive Heuristics and Biases in Ethnographic Business Practice

TONY SALVADOR, JOHN W. SHERRY, L. WILTON AGATSTEIN and HSAIN ILAHIANE With more than five billion people, large corporations have expressed non-trivial interest in “emerging markets” as potential future sources of revenue. We in this community of ethnographic praxis, are privileged to move with some ease between corporate board rooms and people’s living rooms around the world. Yet, our messages and meanings that might lead to positive action are hampered by both our own language – that of development – and the ways in which people hear our language through specific cognitive heuristics and biases. In this paper, we specifically unpack the prevalent business interest concerning the “digital divide”. We discuss how that particular framing, i.e., digital, divide, essentializes upwards of 85-90% of the global population as simply poor and living in developing countries limiting business engagement. We argue that these predilections are further magnified by specific cognitive heuristics and biases we all posses but which are...