Intelligences

An Economy of Knowledge: Research, Architectural Practice and Knowledge (in) Translation

ANDREW MAHER and INGER MEWBURN How does new knowledge ‘flow’ within an organisation? In this paper we report upon a case study in which ethnography is employed to render visible the ‘knowledge transfer’ (strategically redefined as ‘knowledge translation’) occurring between a PhD researcher and the members of the organisation in which he is ‘embedded’. In this case the PhD student is located within an architectural firm and an industry context that is not accustomed to housing researchers in its midst. The path of knowledge flow, or rather its translation, is not found to be smooth. Knowledge ‘flow’ happens only in leaks and trickles through the organisation. We discuss the implications of this case for how ethnographic research in a business context might be communicated to an audience who do not necessarily value scrutiny of this nature....

Innovation in Collaboration: Using an Internet-Based Research Tool as a New Way to Share Ethnographic Knowledge

BETH DI LEONE and ELIZABETH EDWARDS Ethnography in business is only successful if it is a cooperative, communicative endeavor. Research teams must be able to share knowledge with one another and with the client. In the absence of effective communication, time is wasted, analytic quality can suffer, and the client may lose faith in the value of the project or the value of ethnography in business. This paper will address the subject of transmissivity by defining four key needs for knowledge sharing in collaborative ethnographic research: direct experience of the research context, even distribution of knowledge, coordinated development of analysis, and management of the client experience. After synthesizing the literature on knowledge sharing to define these four key needs, the paper will describe how an internet based research tool can enable global, continuous, and controlled information exchange, meeting these needs in a new way. This type of solution can facilitate communication and enrich contextual understanding, pointing in a new...

The Best of Both (Virtual) Worlds: Using Ethnography and Computational Tools to Study Online Behavior

NICOLAS DUCHENEAUT, NICHOLAS YEE and VICTORIA BELLOTTI In recent years, many ethnographers have conducted participant observation studies in virtual worlds, whether in games like World of Warcraft or user-generated environments like Second Life. However, the acceptance of digital fieldwork as a legitimate form of ethnography does not make it strictly identical to its physical counterpart. In particular, the logistics of virtual ethnography offer both opportunities and pitfalls that practitioners must address. The virtual nature of the space also compounds traditional issues such as generalizability and coverage. In this paper, we will highlight several interesting opportunities and challenges in conducting ethnography in virtual worlds. Moreover, we will then argue that the common problems shared by quantitative and qualitative social scientists in virtual world research serve to bridge the methodological divide, such that virtual ethnography could be greatly enhanced with the use of computational tools usually more associated with...

The Dō and Jutsu of Strategic Ethnography: Balancing the Way and the Art of Understanding

LUCAS MCCANN, CORIN LUDWIG and MATT MULLINS In Japan, martial arts emerged from a long period of violence. Once warring ceased, philosophical practices formed on this foundation of efficacy. These martial arts are called by names ending in –jutsu (“technique”) and –dō (“way”), respectively. From ethnography’s rich tradition of understanding grew the practical art of understanding as a means to an end. But strip portions of the practice from the way, and problems sprout. For social research to remain relevant, practitioners must strive to embody the essential spirit of ethnography - understanding people. In the martial arts, Dō and Jutsu practiced by masters are identical. In the field of design research, we similarly balance understanding and application to deliver strategic outcomes. However, external factors push this practice to become more predictable and thereby threaten the balance. Using the analogy of Dō and Jutsu in the martial arts, we explore the challenges that strategic ethnography faces today....

Heroic Complexity in Strategic Innovation

TONY SALVADOR I posit that strategic innovation – the act of carrying an idea through to execution – is an act of destruction as much, or perhaps more so, then it is an act of creation. Specifically, innovation is a violent act against an extant complex adaptive system, a system whose purpose is not only to survive, but also to improve its relative position vis-à-vis others in its milieu. Moreover, innovation that happens within institutions such as corporations is an act of violence against a system animated by extant social structures who also seek to survive and improve their relative positions. The result is a system whose emergent properties actively resist innovation, a point well covered in literature. Strategic innovations, already a low probability event, can occur with greater likelihood, therefore, if one leaves the system and returns in a structured manner, a structure I propose is remarkably similar to the Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”. Implications for the structure of strategic innovation, innovations...

The Way to Design Ethnography for Public Service: Barriers and Approaches in Japanese Local Government

KUNIKAZU AMAGASA This paper introduces various barriers hindering the introduction of ethnography in support of public service design improvement in Japan, and discusses ways to overcome these barriers. Service design approaches using ethnography are gaining popularity in the public sector, especially in Europe. In Japan, however, local governments have adopted few or no ethnographic methods in order to improve public services. One of the most difficult barriers to the establishment of ethnographic approaches in Japan is the long-lasting relationships between citizens and local governments. Ethnographers engage in competition with citizens and are accused of bias, making it difficult for local governments to conduct ethnographic research freely and understand their citizens in depth. In order to overcome these barriers, this paper proposes three approaches about introducing areas, research protocols and organizations....

Turn and Face the Strange: An Ethnographic Approach to Change Management

MADS HOLME The ability to lead organizational and cultural change has never been a more critical factor for success in business than today. With renewed urgency many executives ask what do with their company culture(s): “Why can’t we build organizations that are more innovative, inspiring, and more agile – and why do our change initiatives typically fail?” Based on project engagements where questions like these have been a focal point, this paper aims to shed light on the conditions and role of business anthropology to take active part in enhancing organizational change programs. Through concrete examples, it discusses central challenges on how we as ethnographers can strengthen our approach when navigating in change programs – not only in terms of how we decompose and diagnose culture (telling companies what they should not do) – but more importantly on how to play an active role in leading the way and tackling complexity through positive enablers of change....

Ethnography in the Age of Analytics

ADRIAN SLOBIN and TODD CHERKASKY As North America begins to emerge from the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, companies are turning up their investment dollars. This investment includes a renewed focus on what might loosely be called “the customer experience.” In our recent consulting engagements, this focus often comes in the form of a clearly stated client demand for a very unclear concept – a “360 view of my customer.” The metaphor conjures up a pantopticonal image of customer beliefs and behaviors which would precipitate a perfectly calibrated set of products and services. Ethnographic practice would, one would think, be well positioned to support this renewed focus on experience. However, we have found that the conversation about customer experience typically begins – and ends – with analytics and business intelligence. The metaphor of a “360 view of my customer” has led to an emphasis on data acquisition, with less of a focus on experiential understanding. That said, data modeling can be fruitfully employed...

Keitai, Blog, and Kuuki-wo-yomu (Read the Atmosphere): Communicative Ecology in Japanese Society

TADAMASA KIMURA In mobile communications studies, Japan is known for its “keitai culture.” However, the actual use of keitai among the Japanese is anything but glamorous. On the other hand, strong preference of online diary and diary blogs among the Japanese is remarkable. What is puzzling, however, is that the Japanese online diarists and bloggers have been astoundingly self-effacing. What communications are they engaged in, with providing little information about themselves? Relying on and advancing the methodological perspective of “communicative ecology,” this study discusses the way online diaries and blogs are intertwined with mobile communications, embedded in the communicative ecology. It also reveals the way “kuuki wo yomu” (read the atmosphere) motivates people’s expectations and actions in social communications, contributing to the formation of the communicative ecology....

The Martial Ethnographic Arts

SUZANNE L. THOMAS There is longevity to the ethnographic arts: a report referred back to over years, an image that captures a resiliently fresh insight. In crude words, ethnographic analysis has a longer shelf life than traditional market research. The latter requires tending to keep its categories replete with a fresh cast of characters. The former is distinguished by a methodological practice that keeps it fresh and truthful without the necessity of being, for the moment, a truth. There is a mastery of the ethnographic arts. For twenty years, I have practiced as an academic ethnographer, private sector consultant and now corporate practitioner. I now hire ethnographers. (I have become an armchair anthropologist.) To do so, I must discern what makes some ethnographic practitioners better than others. I compare along three practices: documentary finesse, journeying and discipline (the latter more yogic than Foucaultian). I hire for the longevity and truthfulness of their work....

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...