More Things Considered
More Things Considered
Our tiny provocation is that the word “sustainability” is not sustainable. Just using it is sabotaging our efforts to build a better future for the planet. Despite decades of global sustainability discourse, the world is still going to hell. What's gone wrong? Our paper is about willful ignorance and complicity at a global scale; the benefits of small talk; and a better, more effective word than sustainability.
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 300–321, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...
University College London/ETHNO-ISS (NASA)
Since March 2020, many employees around the world have been forced to work from home due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have experience in working in isolation and confinement. This paper focuses on a comparison of astronauts on the ISS and Earth-bound architects and interior designers restricted to working from home (i.e. their sofas) due to the pandemic. Isolation at work emerges as a complex phenomenon characterized by the measured and perceived distances between physical, social, and temporal spaces. By examining the scale-making activities of NASA and HKS, analogs provide a possible means for studying and predicting the complex dimensions of isolation. The work ecosystem is a useful tool in conceptualizing and operationalizing the employee experience to design the future of work and workspaces.
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 338–355, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic
LORA V. KOYCHEVA
Technical University of Munich
Questions of scale permeate current approaches to empathy in applied human-centered work—and especially design thinking—but they have remained largely unquestioned. What is more, empathy has become an empty signifier, and empathizing is often a near-formulaic and pro-forma endeavor. To catalyze a reworking of the concept, in this paper I synthesize what has been said so far of empathy and its role in design and innovation, and I take stock of what these contributions point to. I ask: “How can we think of empathy as a scalar phenomenon and thus re-scale it in innovation?” I offer some illustrative, if unresolved, tensions with empathy I have had in my own ethnographic work with a robotics start-up, and I conclude the article with a series of provocations with the hope they will be taken up further.
Keywords: empathy, ethnography, design thinking, robotics
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 243–262, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...
The US banking industry has a long history of excluding, exploiting, or simply ignoring low-income communities, recent immigrants, and racial minorities. In this paper, I share my experiences creating a community of practice where employees of a rapidly-growing banking startup can identify and confront the ethical challenges facing the financial technology (fintech) industry. This community is informed by insights from four years of activism and anthropological research that I conducted with small teams of service designers and ethnographers developing financial services for and with low- to moderate-income communities around the world. Through this research, I identified three institutional logics—insularity, decontextualization, and technological hubris—which limit efforts to build a more inclusive, equitable banking system. These logics hold the potential to lead well-intentioned organizations, and the practitioners they employ, to harm the marginalized communities they set out to help. This paper concludes...
International Business Machines Corporation, A Functional Democracy
International Business Machines Corporation, A Functional Democracy
In this case study we use ethnographic outcomes from the study of the employee population of IBM, to inform new experiences for improving civic engagement in the resident population of Austin, Texas. In doing so, we experiment with a technique in speculative ethnography that uses research insights from a variant population with a variant challenge for in-depth explorations of a possible future. We demonstrate, first, that while in speculative thinking big ideas can be imagined, transposing ethnography enables a richer exploration of possible futures, and thus, further depth in ideas. And second, that by combining speculative thinking with existing ethnography, researchers and design teams can unearth bold experiments and jump start a design process that drives quicker learnings and impact in new contexts.
Keywords: Culture Change, Speculative Design, Civic Engagement,...
Supporting communities on its platforms has been a part of Facebook's core mission since 2017. Early understandings of the needs of groups and organizers largely centered around groups that began on Facebook itself. This paper is the result of ethnographic research conducted in 2019 to better understand the needs of different types of groups and the corresponding ways that technology platforms do and could support them. The initial orientation towards online groups led to the recognition of the difficulty of managing fast-growing groups but failed to consider whether groups might want to avoid growth in members altogether. We found in our research that many groups in fact did want to avoid or limit their growth in numbers. For these groups, growing as a community meant different things: offering more to existing members, raising awareness, or promoting the group to an outside audience, or simply maintaining over time. Our research was able to connect the dots of why organizers...
Duo Security (formerly Indeed)
This case study explores how we personalized search results by turning ethnographic insights into taxonomic metadata, which in turn allowed us to use quantitative methods to assess business impact. The first part of the case study focuses on the problem we were trying to solve – creating better search results for nurses – and using ethnographic interviews to understand how nurses approached looking for jobs. The second part of the study dives more deeply into how metadata works, and why it was the perfect partner for capturing our ethnographic findings and making them into a scalable and measurable part of the design process. The third part of the study details how we tested and scaled our designs in the live project, and why we believe others might benefit from using a similar approach. Keywords: mental models, taxonomy, business impact.
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 177–188, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...
University of Technology Sydney
University of Technology Sydney
Effective software quality assurance in large-scale, complex software systems is one of the most vexed issues in software engineering, and, it is becoming ever more challenging. Software quality and its assurance is part of software development practice, a messy, complicated and constantly shifting human endeavor.
What emerged from our immersive study in a large Australian software development company is that software quality in practice is inextricably entangled with the phenomena of productivity, time, infrastructure and human practice. This ethnographic insight — made visible to the organization and its developers via the rich picture and the concept of entanglements — built their trust in our work and expertise. This led to us being invited to work with the software development teams on areas for change and improvement and moving to a participatory and leading role in organizational change.
Keywords: ethnography, entanglements,...
As a team of researchers was asked by a French home-improvement retailer to redefine their strategy, they designed and carried out an ethnographic and quantitative research to identify new business opportunities. But no sooner had they set foot in field, they were struck not only by the richness and complexity of such ordinary activities to the point they asked themselves if these practices were even measurable? Scaling from ethnography to quantitative research was not as seamless as they expected, they had to find their way to deal with two sets of data that belong to different scales if not ontological worlds. Are these two scales really strictly separated? Can't there be a way to combine them and to make them coincide? Based on the study of DIYing practices, this case study presents an attempt to integrate ethnographic and quantitative research and the challenge of resolving the scale differences between two methodologies. From turning DIYers into numbers and vice-versa, it explores the implications...
SHEILA SUAREZ DE FLORES
10 10 10, Eco.tter
In this catalyst, we the authors describe the benefits of ‘scaling out’: reaching out beyond one's organization to bring in external partners to accomplish UX research. Organizations scale out their research efforts in order to cover more ground, draw from more specialties, or conduct more research more quickly than they would be able to alone. As opposed to growing an in-house team to meeting research needs (‘scaling up’), scaling out can be a more inclusive approach to generating user insights, where the voices of diverse research partners throughout the world are brought together to produce powerful UX research outcomes. A case study example of work with suppliers and clients illustrates scaling out. Collective intelligence pushes scaling out even further, as it counts research participants, users and potential users as part of the network of partners who get work done.
Keywords: distributed collaboration,...
FANI NTAVELOU BAUM
Despite companies facing real consequences for getting ethics wrong, basic ethical questions in emerging technologies remain unresolved. Companies have begun trying to answer these tough questions, but their techniques are often hindered by the classical approach of moral philosophy and ethics – namely normative philosophy – which prescribe an approach to resolving ethical dilemmas from the outset, based on assumed moral truths. In contrast, we propose that a key foundation for ‘getting ethics right’ is to do the opposite: to discover them, by going out into the world to study how relevant people resolve similar ethical dilemmas in their daily lives – a project we term ‘grounded ethics’. Building from Durkheim's theory of moral facts and more recent developments in the anthropology of morals and ethics, this paper explores the methods and theory useful to such a mission – synthesizing these into a framework to guide future...
Challenging measures of scale is possible through listening to stories of how people value a product, and envisioning ways to measure success beyond typical metrics like Monthly Active Use (MAU) or Daily Active Use (DAU).
Understanding what people value is somewhat complex for a product like Firefox because people might use Firefox every day without thinking much about it. In this case study, we detail how we used Futures Thinking and participatory design methods to elicit stories of how people value Firefox.
This case study demonstrates that a relatively small number of meaningful ethnographic insights can be powerful enough to influence business strategy. By creating the space for listening to stories and encouraging stakeholder involvement, we were able to make the case to save one of our mobile browsers, Firefox Focus, despite its lack of scale.
Keywords: Diary Study, Firefox, Futures Thinking, Interviews, Mozilla, Participatory Design, Remote Research,...
JOHN W. SHERRY
Scale suffuses the work we do and, recently, has us considering an aspect of scale best suited to those with ethnographic training. We've been asked to help with scaling up one of the latest blockbusters in high tech – deep learning. Advances in deep learning have enabled technology to be programmed to not only see who we are by using facial ID systems and hear what we say by using natural language systems; machines are now even programmed to recognize what we do with vision-based activity recognition. However, machines often define the objects of their gaze at the wrong scale. Rather than “look for” people or objects, with deep learning, machines typically look for patterns at the smallest scale possible. In multiple projects, we've found that insights from anthropology are needed to inform both the scale and uses of these systems.
Keywords Deep Learning, Human Scale, Ethnographic Insights
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings...
PechaKucha Presentation—‘Postcards from Isolation’ is a collection of collaborative & interactive experiences that represent the shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The origins of the project lie in a reflection on the deeper social, cultural and economical impact of being in isolation. Drawing on ethnographic accounts (Malinowski, Mead), we studied how the context of being isolated these days corresponds to the uniqueness of geographical islands - spaces that enforce a different connection to land and its resources; and ones that lead to unique cultural patterns. Drawing on that metaphor, we explored to what extent we, as individuals, may be evolving into symbolic islands of our own, driven by similar powers, at a scale unlike before. What can we learn from that? How can we visualise these shifts for others to remember?
The nonprofit project was self-initiated by a group of cross disciplinary HCD colleagues. The website (isolation.is) currently holds 15 Postcards that represent shifts...
The Soft Build
PechaKucha Presentation—An exploration of scale in the built environment. Looking first at the graphic scale of building documentation – each layer with its own purpose and logic, being absolutely clear to reduce risk. And then considering architecture at human scale – how design thinking becomes a scaffold for organisational change. It explores how to engage with people in a visioning process, how existing environments shape world views, and how those conversations “scale up” from the individual, through the group, to form the aspirations for one new building, a multi-faith setting in Western Sydney that needs to find a new way to integrate Islamic and Christian theologies.
Keywords: User research, Organisational change
Sue Wittenoom is the founder of The Soft Build, a consultancy focused on design for change. A registered architect with an MBA, her work has evolved over the past 30 years from architecture to project management, program design, change management and strategic consulting....