Intelligences

Ethnographic Temporality: Using Time-Based Data in Product Renewal

SAM LADNER Corporate ethnography is often targeted at renewing the life of a product. Getting customers to start using a product again – or start using it in the first place – entails a deep understanding of the rhythm of everyday life. When do customers begin to use this product? When do they stop? What else is going on during this time? It is tempting to rely on the automatically collected time-data from “big data” analytics to answer this question. But ethnography offers a unique cultural lens to understanding the temporal aspects of the product lifecycle. In this paper, I provide examples of technological products that demonstrate how ethnographic insight offers deeper insight about the temporal aspects of products. I introduce the concept of the “timescape” and its three dimensions of time, and explain where some products are temporally successful and others temporally fail. I explain in the final portion of this paper, I outline ways in which digital time-data should complement traditional ethnography....

The Corporate Gaze – Transparency and Other Corporate Visions

CHRISTINA GARSTEN In an expanding global economy, the notion of ‘transparency’ has gained increasing currency as an organizational goal. In a wide variety of situations, increased transparency is held up as a preferred point of direction for organizations, public as well as private. The notion of transparency implies visibility, possibilities for seeing through, for seeing, and being been. It carries hopes for more just procedures and open decision making processes. It suggests higher degrees of clarity, rationality and accountability. Transparency, then, is an entry-point to the understanding of contemporary society and culture and the visions and challenges that are attached to it. The placing of transparency on the corporate agenda is evinced in the creation of corporate codes of conduct and standards for corporate social accountability. Through workshops, training sessions and consultancy services, corporate actors are learning how to ‘open their books’ to public scrutiny and judgement. We see it in ways of measuring and...

“Ethnography of Ethnographers” and Qualitative Meta-Analysis for Business

JOSH KAPLAN and ALEXANDRA MACK The use of meta-analytic studies has grown steadily in recent decades as a means of establishing greater confidence and robustness of social science findings, but such approaches remain rare in the business world. This paper offers two inter-linked qualitative meta-analytic approaches for business: one that both draws on pre-existing data to gain insight into new strategic questions and reaches across multiple studies to achieve greater generalizability and robustness, and a second that studies researchers and research practice as a means of reflecting on and improving methodology in particular organizations or research groups. Drawing on an in-house study the authors conducted for a Fortune 500 corporation, this paper articulates these two approaches and points to potential dangers and opportunities in applying them in other settings. In a moment in which researchers are increasingly called upon to do more with less, our approach provides flexibility and adaptability to environments inhospitable to marshalling...

Evolving Ethnographic Practitioners and Their Impact on Ethnographic Praxis

ALEXANDRA MACK and SUSAN SQUIRES As we reflect on the evolving nature of our practice, it is timely to consider how these individual evolutions impact the broader field of ethnographic praxis in industry. First, we look at the career paths of senior members of the EPIC community to chart key transitions in their individual careers. We observe that their career paths have moved them away from fieldwork, and into management where they shape projects, mentor staff and participate in decision-making. Thus, a key aspect of evolution for the EPIC community lies in how senior members are influencing what industry expects from ethnographic praxis. In a second intersecting theme we review how these individual career evolutions collectively influence the EPIC Community of Practice. We discuss how our field continues to evolve both on an individual level and within the Community of Practice to which we all belong....

The EPIC 2013 Conversation

MELISSA CEFKIN, MARIA BEZAITIS, ALEXANDRA MACK and KEN ANDERSON Oracles, fear, wonderment and magic graced the Faraday Theater of the Royal Institution of Great Britain once again. They appeared, appropriately, intertwined with the story of the advancement of science, and of technologies of knowledge. At the 9th annual Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, the very fundamentals of humanity, from senses to mediation, were explored and questioned. What an honor to be hosted at this esteemed organization to engage in the exploration of ethnographic praxis in industry!Experimenting with a theme-less program, the conference exposed the breadth and range of current ethnographic practice. In this year’s conversation we note just some of the threads and themes we observed to play out. But before that, we want to offer a reflection on the very existence of EPIC and its mission at the cusp of its 10th birthday. The ethnographic marketplace matures with new challenges ahead A couple of years ago we realized the Board faced a rather...

Move Me: On Stories, Rituals, and Building Brand Communities

KATE SIECK This paper takes on the challenge of understanding behaviour change through the lens of anthropology. In the field of market research, the goal is to find the leverage points of emotional connection that will inspire a desired behaviour. But traditional approaches to research have relied on methods that neither capture these triggers of change, nor inspire connection. Alternatively, an approach to research based on rituals induces transformational experiences that by their very definition are grounded in emotional connection. This paper details a framework for ritual-based research, and provides case studies of how and when rituals might be used for gathering market insights. We conclude with recommendations for extending the approach into engagement opportunities and creative executions....

“It Was Like a Little Community”: An Ethnographic Study of Online Learning and its Implications for MOOCs

CHRISTINA WASSON In this time of social, technical, educational and industrial upheaval, time and space are being compressed and stretched as social actors develop new practices in response to shifts in their lived experience. In the American educational sector, these phenomena have crystalized in the meteoritic rise of MOOCs, massive open online courses. The story of their ascent weaves together neoliberal shifts in financing education, technology developments, and perceived business opportunities. MOOCs have captured the imagination of the business press, venture capitalists, and university leaders. However, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the perceptions of students who are taking online courses – in other words, the users. Drawing on an ethnographic study of a small online class, this paper describes the limitations of MOOC pedagogies by comparison with low-enrollment online courses, and concludes by casting doubt on the effectiveness of MOOC learning experiences as well as MOOC business models....

Models in Motion: Ethnography Moves from Complicatedness to Complex Systems

KEN ANDERSON, TONY SALVADOR and BRANDON BARNETT Since the 90’s, one of ethnography’s values has been about the reduction in the risk of developing new products and services by providing contextual information about people’s lives. This model is breaking down. Ethnography can continue to provide value in the new environment by enabling the corporation to be agile. We need to: (1) identify flux in social-technological fabric; (2) engage in the characterization of the business ecosystems to understand order; and (3) be a catalyst with rapid deep dives. Together we call it a FOC approach (flux, order, catalyst)....

What Research Enables: Ethnography by High-school Students Catalyzing Transformation of a Post-tsunami Community

FUMIKO ICHIKAWA, HIROSHI TAMURA and YOKO AKAMA We are beginning to witness a broadening of the contribution, positioning and purpose of ethnography in industry, catalysed by questioning what it can enable for communities and societies. By going beyond boundaries and disjuncture of corporate forms and viewing it within an entangled fields of economics, culture and society, this paper discuss how we become aware of what we do, and to enable others to make sense of the transformations that are occurring around them and within them, and how can we all participate in that process of being and becoming. In doing so, we question how to self-reflexively explore how we, as ethnographers, can be empowered to embark on such endeavours....

People and Energy: A Design-led Approach to Understanding Everyday Energy Use Behaviour

DAN LOCKTON, FLORA BOWDEN, CATHERINE GREENE, CLARE BRASS and RAMA GHEERAWO Reducing home energy use is a major societal challenge, involving behaviour change alongside infrastructure improvements. However, many approaches lump ‘energy demand’ together as something homogeneous, addressable primarily through quantitative feedback, rather than basing interventions on an understanding of why people use energy as they do. Our contention is that people don’t set out to ‘use energy’: its use is a side effect of solving everyday problems, meeting needs for comfort, light, cooking, cleaning, entertainment, and so on....

Consumer Fetish

ERIC ARNOULD and JULIEN CAYLA Commercial ethnography has become an important activity for accessing the lived experiences of consumers that are constructed as “others” that firms have to discover and manage. In organizational contexts where the necessity to accumulate organizational knowledge about markets have become paramount, the figure of the “consumer” has become a quasi-magical object bestowed with the aura of the real, a fetish that comes to stand for the market, and symbolizes the firm’s effective orientation towards the market. In this paper we demonstrate how the anthropological concept of the fetish may be usefully employed in understanding the nature of this process, whereby the voices and images of consumers are endowed with power within organizational contexts. Consumer fetish is at once a quasi object and a manifestation of analogical knowledge....

Maru: An ethnographic approach to revive local communities

FUMIKO ICHIKAWA and HIROSHI TAMURA How would Japan's rural communities renew oneself when the nation's economy no longer holds the absolute financial and technological powers in the global sphere? Through our post-3.11 recovery effort in local communities of Kesennuma, Japan, we discuss - a gap between the perceptions of Japan's rise from the 1950s and how in fact rural economies, such as the one in Kesennuma, have lost independency through its process. This paper seeks to capture the power of Maru, an inter-local activity, seeking an alternative to the conventional model of development based on the economy of capitalism, and how ethnography and design would play a central role in the success of community revival....

Techno|theory Deathmatch: An Agonistic Experiment in Theory and Practice

JAY DAUTCHER, MIKE GRIFFIN, TIFFANY ROMAIN and EUGENE LIMB Theories about humans and their relationships with technology are part of a lifeworld shared by many corporate ethnographers, although individuals’ practices for engaging with theory can vary considerably due to factors such as disciplinary training and workplace norms. Within the EPIC community the perception of a constrained relationship between theory and corporate ethnographic praxis has emerged as a matter of concern. This paper recounts our experiment with bringing theory into daily work by designing and playing a game that had us adopt the personas of theorists while engaging in rhetorical combat, competing to surface insights relevant to an ongoing technology development project. Each phase, from initial game design, through prototyping play, to the final event, supported our collective practice of theory, brought to light hidden assumptions about the role of theory in our work, and provided actionable value to our daily work activities....

“Out of the Labs”: The Role for Ethnography in Guiding Clinical Trials

YOSHA GARGEYA and MADS HOLME Ethnography and clinical research appear fundamentally disparate, even conflicting. Their very objectives are dichotomous – the latter moves molecules ‘from the lab to consumer market’ in controlled environments, while the former studies the uncontrolled environment of everyday life. However, with the new reality of pharmaceutical research and development, companies are urged to look into new ways of delivering impact and value to payers, prescribers, and users. This paper explores how ethnographic research can fill that role in early stages of pharmaceutical clinical trials, challenging current paradigms of method as well as parameters for success – and how bridging methodologies can open new avenues for ethnographic practice in business....

The “Race to Embrace the Senses” in Marketing: An Ethnographic Perspective

DAVID HOWES Pier 1 Imports is a store that specializes in home decor, including wood and wicker furniture, draperies, and scented candles. On the cover of its Fall 2000 catalogue there is a picture of a tabletop fountain made of slabs of brown and grey speckled marble. Down the right edge of the cover is a series of coloured boxes. Each box is imprinted with the name of a different sense. At the top is feel (golden yellow), then smell (lawn green), hear (purple) taste (lust red), and finally see (burnt orange). The slogan reads: “Get in touch with your senses™”. A full page advertisement for Westin Hotels & Resorts which appeared in 2007 features a bunch of lush green leaves spattered with dewdrops and the line: “White tea. The calming new scent of Westin.” There is a flap which releases the scent of white tea when opened. Just above the hotel logo is the slogan: “This is how it should feel.” The chain had recently introduced The Westin Heavenly Bed® with its “ten layers of pure comfort.” When Apple launched...