Intelligences

Verfremdung and Business Development: The Ethnographic Essay as Eye-opener

ANNE LINE DALSGAARD This paper discusses the use of essays as tools for communication and reflection in a collaborative research and development process between a philosopher, an anthropologist, and two private companies. Findings from the project “The Meaning of Work Life” will be presented along with a discussion about their relevance for the involved companies. To specify the general anthropological strategy of defamiliarization, the notion of verfremdung1 is used to detail out specific features of the analytical and representational perspective employed. The paper concludes that the meaning of research results cannot be controlled, as they will always be interpreted according to personal or professional agendas, which is why a style of representation that lays bare their status as interpretations is not only appropriate but may even – by way of estrangement - be revealing and innovative. This conclusion is not new to anthropology as such, but within the context of business ethnography (in which more and more anthropologists...

Design Rituals and Performative Ethnography

JOACHIM HALSE and BRENDON CLARK This paper proposes a course for ethnography in design that problematizes the implied authenticity of “people out there,” and rather favors a performative worldview where people, things and business opportunities are continuously and reciprocally in the making, and where anthropological analysis is only one competence among others relevant for understanding how this making unfolds. In contrast to perpetuating the “real people” discourse that often masks the analytic work of the anthropologist relegating the role of the ethnographer to that of data collector (Nafus and Anderson 2006), this paper advocates a performative ethnography that relocates the inescapable creative aspects of analysis from the anthropologist’s solitary working office into a collaborative project space. The authors have explored the use of video clips, descriptions and quotes detached from their “real” context, not to claim how it really is out there, but to subject them to a range of diverse competencies, each with...

Video Utterances: Expressing and Sustaining Ethnographic Meaning through the Product Development Process

MEG CRAMER, MAYANK SHARMA, TONY SALVADOR and RUSSELL BEAUREGARD In this paper we discuss the use of short, specific videos to communicate ethnographic data throughout the product development process. Ethnographic videos of this nature provide complex information in short “utterances” (zero to three minutes) that researchers use to effectively convey local meaning to other participants in the process. Video utterances can be used to create opportunities for participation in product ideation, recognize key features and identify problems during product testing. With proper scaffolding, the video utterances are an effective means of contextual representation proving to be quick, direct and influential with product development teams. Using video of this kind impacts the product as the local, ethnographic meaning is sustained throughout development....

Beyond Walking With Video: Co-creating Representation

JONATHAN BEAN This paper discusses a method I used to conduct a study of hygge, a Danish concept that is usually translated as “cosiness.” I wanted to learn more about hygge and how it related to technology in the home. The method I used builds on my experience with spatial ethnography, on Bruno Latour’s theory of representation, and on the work of visual anthropologist Sarah Pink. I asked participants to use a video or still camera to help me document their home. With participant and researcher both behind the lens of a camera, I saw a significant remapping of the power relationship between researcher and participant; we were able to focus together on the material home as the object of the research. In addition to reducing the time needed to build rapport, this method offers a way to analyze cultural practices such ashygge that are not entirely visible in the material world....

“Let’s Bring It Up to B Flat”: What Style Offers Applied Ethnographic Work

RICK E. ROBINSON Ethnographic and design work share, deeply, the challenge of conveying the truth of the work we do to interlocutors from very different backgrounds. Writing is hard work even with the shared culture that an academic discipline or a single firm can draw upon. How, then, to write well for broad and varied audiences? By writing like novelists. Literary critic James Wood encapsulates the central tradition of the novel as: “Truthfulness to the way things are […] Life on the page, life brought to different life by the highest artistry.” (2008:247) It is hard to conceive of a better description of what most of us would like to achieve. “Truthfulness to the way things are” gets nicely to all of the important moments of what we do—observation, description, interpretation, inscription. In this paper, I try to move ‘style’ up the ladder of importance in how we think, write, and talk about the work we do....

(In)visible partners: People, Algorithms, and Business Models in Online Dating

ELIZABETH CHURCHILL and ELIZABETH S. GOODMAN A confluence of personal, technical and business factors renders priorities, practices, and desires visible – and invisible – when people use online dating sites to look for partners. Based on a review of websites, interviews with dating site designer/developers, and interviews with would-be daters about their online experiences and their first dates, we offer some insights into the entanglement between daters, site implementers, and business models that is part and parcel of getting ‘matched’ via the Internet. We also examine the role of the website interface and match algorithms in the expression of the “real me” and the search for “the one” – and then how processes of self-presentation and partner imagination play into the planning, expectation-setting and experience of the first date. Finally, we reflect on issues raised for design and for strategic technology development. This study of online-offline encounters is an example of using detailed qualitative analyses...

“Name That Segment!”: Questioning the Unquestioned Authority of Numbers

DONNA K. FLYNN, TRACEY LOVEJOY, DAVID SIEGEL and SUSAN DRAY In many companies, numbers equal authority. Quantitative data is often viewed as more definitive than qualitative data, while its shortcomings are overlooked. Many of us have worked to marry quantitative with qualitative methods inside organizations to present a fuller view of the people for whom we develop. One area of research that increasingly needs to blend quantitative and qualitative methods is user segmentations. Our software technology product team has been using a segmentation based on quantitative data since 2005. One outcome of this effort has been the development of an algorithm–based “typing” tool intended to be used as a standard tool in recruiting for all segmentation-focused research. We learned that the algorithm was an indecipherable black box, its inner workings opaque even to those who owned it internally. This case study looks at how qualitative research came up against the impenetrable authority of a quantitative segmentation and its associated...

Contact Lists and Youth

MATTHEW YAPCHAIAN This paper explores the nature of networked contact lists in an emerging new media ecology as they relate to a population of 10 American pre-teens and teens (9-15). Mobile, gaming, and Web 2.0 services are contributing to a shift in the role of the contact list from a static visualization of a database to an active communication tool and the site of sociality. We draw in material from ethnographic research illustrating contact lists as dynamic sites for social activity, existing across multiple media channels, which evolve in time with an individual user. We then describe how contact list use by American youth (9-15) produces new understandings of accessibility, sociality, and visibility within the scope of personal relationships, mobility, and play in everyday life. We conclude with how we are informing corporate strategy on youth marketing and new product development....

Flexibility and the Curatorial Eye: Why and How Well-Documented Fieldwork Sustains Value Over Time

ELIZABETH CHURCHILL and AME ELLIOTT This paper discusses two distinguishing features of ethnographic work, program flexibility and data flexibility. These forms of flexibility deliver business benefits at two different timeframes. Within the timeframe of a given project, ethnographic practice is necessarily reflective and reflexive; ethnographic training insists researchers be flexible. This means projects are responsive to emerging results, and can be reframed in situ without significant additional investment. After the project has completed, carefully managed, stored and curated ethnographic materials can answer new questions, perhaps posed years after the project has ended. Thus, ethnographic work can generate business impact by sustaining value over time. Two cases illustrate the value-generating qualities of ethnographic work: one recently conducted investigation of drinking water in India and one conducted ten years ago looking at changes in collaborative practices as a result of the adoption of mobile technologies. Discussion...

Policy Change Inside the Enterprise: The Role of Anthropology

ALEXANDRA MACK and JOSH KAPLAN This paper addresses corporate policymaking and its varied meanings through organizational hierarchies and across departments. We argue for an approach to policymaking and implementation in large companies such that the impact on work remains visible to decision makers, and such that employees engage with, and promote the changes being made. In evaluating the effects of a policy change inside our company, we found that not only did the justifications for the original policy not hold up, policy implementation negatively impacted certain job roles and departments and employee engagement was undermined. A key implication of our findings is that implementation plans should assess the impact on affected parties, and we suggest that anthropologists are well-suited to conduct this assessment. If deployed to evaluate the effects and effectiveness of policy changes on people, work practices and perceptions, anthropologists can influence the direction of policy as it is being formulated and tested, and recommend adjustments...

Ethnographer Diasporas and Emergent Communities of Practice: The Place for a 21st Century Ethics in Business Ethnography Today

INGA TREITLER and FRANK ROMAGOSA Do no harm; communicate and collaborate; keep learning, keep teaching; instigate meaningful change; make theory action. —Designers Accord code of conduct (designersaccord.org) Every profession bears the responsibility to understand the circumstance which enables its existence. —Robert Gutman1 For an exile, habits of life, expression or activity in the new environment inevitably occur against the memory of these things in another environment. Thus both the new and the old environments are vivid, actual, occurring together contrapuntally. There is a unique pleasure in this sort of apprehension. —Edward Said, Reflections on Exile (1984) INTRODUCTION What kind of times are these we live and work in? Last October, many of us left the EPIC2008 meetings with a drive to apply “sustainability” thinking to our research and design. It is no coincidence that those meetings were hosted in Copenhagen, a city in a region where design is an unabashed element of all public decision making and environmental...

The Translucence of Twitter

INGRID ERICKSON Erickson and Kellogg’s construction of social translucence suggests that collaboration tools can be designed more effectively by balancing elements of visibility and awareness among members of the user community to instill a norm of accountability. This paper questions whether the microblogging tool, Twitter, fits these criteria. Building on interview and artifactual data, I find that although Twitter use affords ample visibility of individuals’ networks, thoughts and movements, it is less effective at supporting awareness. Despite this, evidence suggests that accountability can be achieved via indirect awareness maneuvers and around critical incident to yield a form of peripheral translucence. The paper concludes with considerations of how ethnography might best address and evaluate questions of community, accountability, and translucence in future research....

The Secret Life of Medical Records: A Study of Medical Records and the People Who Manage Them

NATHANIEL MARTIN and PATRICIA WALL A study of the practices surrounding paper medical records captured key aspects of the work necessary to support this crucial element of health care. It uncovered work that was invisible to the nurses and physicians who use the records. This invisible work comprises tasks necessary to find and deliver the records as well as those necessary to ensure that the records are accurate and up to date. This study was undertaken because medical records are undergoing a transition from paper to digital systems, which will impact the practices of users of these systems at all levels, including clerical and medical staff. This is an area of particular interest to our organization as we look to provide technologies and services that enable seamless integration of paper and digital worlds. New technologies and practices will need to be developed to accomplish what is now being done invisibly....

The Invisible Work of Being a Patient and Implications for Health Care: “[The Doctor Is] My Business Partner in the Most Important Business in My Life, Staying Alive”

KENTON T. UNRUH and WANDA PRATT In a distributed system of care, patients shuffle among many clinicians and spend the majority of their time away from the treatment center. Although we see the results of patients’ work (e.g., medication taken, arrived at appointment) we do not see the work itself. By failing to see this work, industry overlooks issues with vital implications for their business. To lift the veil of invisibility from patients’ work, we conducted a longitudinal field study to uncover the invisible work breast cancer patients do to obtain information, bridge inter-institutional care, manage dependencies and resolve inconsistent recommendations. In this paper we provide detailed examples of this work and explore the impact on patients and health-care operations; identify patterns of work with implications for patient-centered research and design; and propose common information spaces to improve patients’ work through designs that highlight dependencies, preserve state information, link recommendations to justifications,...