Intelligences

Function and Change in China: Reviving Mauss’ “Total Social Fact” to Gain Knowledge of Changing Markets

MIN LIESKOVSKY, MORGAN RAMSEY-ELLIOT and CHARLES HILL This paper attempts to revive Mauss’s concept of the total social fact as a method to establish understanding of new markets. Our case study of alcohol in China illuminates the spirit baijiu’s connections to the total social facts of guanxi (social capital) and hierarchy. We outline the distinction between symbols that communicate meaning and total social facts that communicate function. We propose a methodology based on using total social facts as a heuristic device, removed from some of the problematic assumptions of classical functionalism....

Tell Them I Built This: A Story of Community Transformation through Design, Youth, and Education

EMILY PILLOTON Good morning. I’m really excited to be here. Last time I was here, I was down the street at the Trustees Theater for all of five hours, while on a cross-country road trip. It’s nice to be back and to have a little bit more time to spend here and to tell the story — and to do so as part of the theme of a conference. What I want to do is just tell the story, and hopefully provide a little bit of context and maybe inspiration under the theme of renewal. I am the founder of this nonprofit organization called Project H. I was thinking this morning about the theme of “renewal,” what that means to me, and what that has to do with my own practice. I came from a background in architecture, and I was thinking about what I do now vs. why I got into architecture in the first place — which at the beginning was really about having grown up with a father who wanted to be an architect, living vicariously through that dream, being a math nerd, but also being really creative. Somehow architecture became this perfect storm...

The Calculus of Small Change: An Ethnography of Unlearning

MARIJKE RIJSBERMAN Technological innovation obsolesces not only earlier technologies, but also the knowledge, skills, and expertise of the users of those technologies. Individual obsolescence is generally written off as the cost of participation in a vibrant capitalist economy, a small price to pay and part of the creative destruction that makes the entire system work. This paper takes a closer look at the individual costs of such obsolescence, through an investigation of the particular class of changes that present themselves subsequent to an individual’s adoption decision—updates, upgrades, service packs, redesigns, patches, bug fixes, feature releases, versions, and other putative enhancements crowding into the contemporary technological landscape with increasing frequency. Updates make up a much-neglected but significant proportion of the total number of changes that make their way to those who participate—whether whole-heartedly or with reservations, willingly or as the unsought consequence of their participation in the labor...

Strangers or Kin? Exploring Marketing’s Relationship to Design Ethnography and New Product Development

SARAH JS WILNER Marketers represent a particularly significant class of colleagues that corporate ethnographers must engage with, with a central role both in commissioning fieldwork and converting its findings into marketplace offerings. This paper explores the interaction between the two functions, asking, “What is the relationship between marketing and design ethnography and how does each function inform—or inhibit—the other?” A review of the various streams of academic literature related to marketing’s role in product development and innovation is presented, with particular emphasis on scholars’ growing attention to the cultural context(s) of consumption as well as the use of ethnography in consumer research. Consonant with the 2008 conference theme of (In)Visibility, the paper considers how the divergent perspectives of marketers and corporate ethnographers create mutual tension and can render each discipline “blind” to the value of the other’s work....

Designing for Turkish Users: Analyzing the Industrial Designer–User Relationship in Turkey

ISIL OYGUR From the perspective of industrial design, user-centered design denotes more than a methodology to understand users. More importantly, it is a medium to create a relationship between designers and users. While user-centered design has much to offer, user research is not a convention in emerging economies. In this context, this paper puts one such emerging market, Turkey, under scrutiny. Six case studies give a snapshot of the current status of product design in general, and user-centered design in particular, in this country. One of the key findings is that, compared to the West, there is a wider gap between designers and users in the Turkish context. Besides economic situations, the eclectic character of Turkish culture plays the biggest role in the expansion of this gap. The application of Western oriented research methods and concentration on global trends also stand as barriers for user-centeredness. In order to ensure products’ success through research, Turkey needs to develop its own user-centered design model....

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Ethnography and Selective Visibility in the Technology Sector

LAURA GRANKA, PATRICK LARVIE and JENS RIEGELSBERGER As ethnographers practicing within an engineering driven industry, we often struggle with visibility and its effects. Exposing the methodological and technical underpinnings of ethnographic practice can bring us closer to the teams we work with, but it can also draw attention to the ways that engineering and anthropology clash. In this brief paper we describe the rationale for deliberate and highly selective visibility in our engineering-driven workplace. We will draw on our experience as anthropologists “embedded” in teams of engineers to discuss our own claims to authority and examine how legitimacy is conferred upon ideas and actions in a technology-driven environment....

The QAME of Trans-disciplinary Ethnography: Making Visible Disciplinary Theories of Ethnographic Praxis as Boundary Object

ELIZABETH (DORI) TUNSTALL Framed by the idea that ethnography is a trans-disciplinary praxis, this paper adopts Alan Barnard’s framework of the theory as questions, assumptions, methods, and evidence (QAME) to compare how ethnographic praxis is approached across the domains of anthropology, marketing, and design. The companies Intel, Cheskin, and IDEO serve as exemplars for each domain, respectively. Through a content analysis of academic journals and popular media, the paper explores the discursive meanings of ethnography as a “boundary object” across many domains. The paper concludes with how Barnard’s QAME framework can be used to make visible ethnography’s multiple meanings so that practitioners can improve interdisciplinary collaborations within organizations and better articulate ethnography’s value to business....

Putting Mobility on the Map: Researching Journeys and the Research Journey

SIMON ROBERTS This paper, based on a fieldwork conducted with community transport projects in rural Ireland, examines the place of mobility in the lives of older people. It uses the idea of journey to explore what mobility means to older people, what the research made visible to a diverse range of project stakeholders and to reflect on the nature of ethnographic projects in industry settings. For passengers, the journeying is often as important as the destination – travelling creates visibility of countryside, community and communion with others. For project stakeholders, the research encouraged a view of mobility that transcends travel because it highlighted the world beyond the bus. For researchers, the project created challenges to the dominant view of technology for ageing-in-place within their own organization. Finally, reflections are made on industry ethnography as a journey with often unknown destinations....

Contextualizing Customers

TRULS ERIK JOHNSEN and PER HELMERSEN This paper is based on fieldwork in Pakistan and Malawi and focuses on the importance of communicating contextualizing stories to HQ and business developer teams. By means of an explorative approach—even in highly structured commercial projects with formalized needs—we’ve uncovered findings and generated understandings that would be hard to pinpoint from a desktop-based pre-study or demand driven fieldwork. These findings in turn have proven to be important tools for said business developers in spite of the fact that they were not included in the initial fieldwork specification. Since our respondents are seen, heard and understood as far as possible within their own framework of values, priorities and aspirations, we, as researchers, are in a position to communicate a well-grounded and more refined picture of their daily lives rather than merely communicating the measurable hard facts back to corporate business developers....

What European Businesses Expect from Us

FILIP LAU This paper presents considerations of strategies for communicating the value of ‘business anthropology’ and ‘insights’ to sceptical business audiences, based on a number of studies with a total of 47 interviews with executives in 27 large companies in mainly Europe, but also the US. The paper will present four major insights deriving from the research and suggest how ‘insights’, ‘business anthropology’ and ethnography can potentially be applied to new areas within business in dire economic times, including, but also going beyond, the traditional areas of application, i.e. ‘innovation’ and ‘marketing’. I argue that the Practice can be expanded by moving beyond the identification of potential areas for innovation (the so-called unmet needs of users/customers/consumers/citizens), for instance to the identification of areas suitable for simplification: where users are currently having ‘over-met needs’, i.e. areas the user perceive as irrelevant and of little value. The paper will also explore the role...

Drawing from Negative Space: New Ways of Seeing Across the Client-Consultant Divide

MICHELE FRANCES CHANG and MATTHEW LIPSON Focusing on the client-consultant relationship, well honed, but perhaps overly so, this paper aims to shed light on the conditions that at once streamline and challenge our collaborations. To do so, we borrow a page from the visual arts; namely an experimental method of representation called negative space drawing. In both its aim (to create a picture from a new perspective) and challenge (to shake off the preconceived notions that limit us) drawing from negative space reflects a similar dynamic to our own. By way of a case study commissioned by one author and conducted by the other, we sketch a framework of negative space which examines our respective biases and agendas and our endeavors to resolve them....

Showing the Value of Ethnography in Business

JOAN VINYETS REJÓN This paper explores the value that ethnography brings to business. It uses the idea of examining the impact and value contribution of the ethnographic praxis within the innovation process and corporate culture. To specify the business impact, it highlights a framework for understanding the value that ethnography brings to a business context. Based on the ethnographic value contribution analysis of different projects and meetings conducted with our clients and with various participating stakeholders, we propose a broader framework and performance indicators for identifying and showing the ethnographic impact regarding business value. Finally, we offer reflections on the value of ethnography contribution as a growing and evolving path....

The Space Between Mine and Ours: Exploring the Subtle Spaces Between the Private and the Shared in India

ASHWINI ASOKAN Starting from their interactions within shared spaces and use of shared objects, to large social networks, the Indian society has developed a range of ways to incorporate subtle gestures and systems into their lives that neither forces them to share all their time and space with everyone, nor isolates them completely. This paper explores this idea that privacy is not always mutually exclusive from shared states. In the process, it highlights quality of time and space as a construct of subtle negotiations between the socially structured and personally desired. These subtleties allow Indians to design their lives around extensive grey spaces that exist in between the community and individual. This suggests some new ways for us to think about meaning of privacy, and its impact on how people in countries like India navigate complex social networks, cultural systems, and rigid social hierarchies, very often using technologies like phones and TVs....

Practice, Products and the Future of Ethnographic Work

MARIA BEZAITIS Ethnographic work in industry has spent two decades contributing to making products that matter in a range of industry contexts. This activity has accounted for important successes within industry. From the standpoint of ethnographic practice, however, the discursive infrastructure that has been developed to do our work within product development is now a limiting factor. For practice to evolve, we must look critically at the ways in which our current successes are indicators of a kind of stasis and that change is a matter of radically redefining the kinds of business problems ethnographic work should address and the values and behaviors associated with how we do our work....

Challenges and Opportunities for Ethnographic Market Research in Uncertain Times

JEAN ZELT While we believe in-depth, observational approaches are still the most powerful way of developing an understanding of users, we must adapt our approach to fit within current economic constraints. One way is to employ economical phases of research that support and strengthen data gathered from in-person, in-context engagements. Specifically, these are preliminary landscape and trends analysis, which provides focused paths of inquiry, and online engagement, which allows us to interact with people over a longer period of time and identify stronger participants for in-person research. The second is to demonstrate to clients how our approaches are broadly applicable and scalable—in terms of activities, participant numbers, and length of engagement—to meet today’s immediate goals. Instead of seeing merely compromise, we see opportunity. The adaptations brought on by our new reality are helping us to develop new ways to bring value to clients and challenging us to be creative in ways that will continue to be relevant even after...