Perspectives

Perspectives publishes leading global expertise about ethnography in business & organizations. Articles show how integrating theory and practice to understand human societies and cultures creates transformative value for people, businesses and the planet. If you’re interested in contributing, get in touch.

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An Interview with Tiffany Tivasuradej

Tiffany Tivasuradej is a Senior Manager at CBRE and co-chair of the EPIC2022 PechaKucha Committee. Tell us about yourself in one sentence. Anthropologist that’s exploring the future of work for her work and baking a lot when she’s not at work. Why did you say ‘yes’ to being on an EPIC committee? EPIC is such a great organisation and the annual conference is always fantastic - who could possibly not say yes to being on the EPIC committee? When you think about the best proposals you read, what really made them stand out? Relevancy to EPIC’s conference theme, a personal touch, and a compelling and actionable narrative that makes me think, “wow!” Is there a particular talk you’re looking forward to? I definitely look forward to the PechaKuchas as I’m helping to coordinate them! Keynote speakers are also always of interest to me too. Is this your first EPIC? What are you looking forward to at EPIC2022? I first joined EPIC in 2020 as a PechaKucha speaker (albeit online). In 2021 I was invited to act as one of the...

An Interview with Robin Kwong

Robin Kwong is New Formats Editor at the Wall Street Journal in New York and a member of the EPIC2022 Case Studies Committee. Tell us a bit about yourself. I'm neither an ethnographer nor a researcher, but found my way to the EPIC community through a curiosity about organisational culture and how to help people work better together. These days, I help news organisations adapt to a changing digital landscape, and, in my spare time, I explore the intersection of art and journalism. Why did you say ‘yes’ to being on an EPIC committee? The EPIC community was so welcoming when I attended my first conference, and I learnt so much from the sessions over the years, that I want to give back and help make the conference as good as possible. When you think about the best proposals you read, what really made them stand out? I reviewed the case studies this year, and the best proposals all did a great job at changing the frame of reference. Case studies are invariably about a particular project or piece of research, but the best proposals...

An Interview with Kristen Guth

Kristen L. Guth is Principal of Product Research at Reddit. She is presenting a case study at EPIC2022 titled "Creating Resiliency of Research Findings: Using Ethnographic Methods to Combat Research Amnesia". Tell us about yourself in one sentence. I am a social scientist research leader focused on change at the intersections of strategy, technology, innovation, and the digital space. Describe your presentation in less than 10 words. A technique to fight research amnesia in organizational memory. Without giving too much away, what is the most interesting finding from your talk? Frame-shifting research into actionable recommendations across multiple sources undergirds validity and enables people to find new resonance in existing work. How do you prepare to speak in public? What’s your process? I run through the slides against a time box and modify to simplify the words and focus on the story. What was your process for writing the proposal? I considered the EPIC program theme and topics of interest in conjunction with organizational...

An Interview with Romit Raj

Romit Raj is Principal at Quicksand Design Studio in India. He is presenting a paper at EPIC2022 titled "Amplifying Resilient Communities: Identifying Resilient Community Practices to Better Inform Health System Design". Tell us about yourself in one sentence. I am a design researcher and technologist. Describe your presentation in less than 10 words. Identifying resilient community practices to better inform health system design. Without giving too much away, what is the most interesting finding from your talk? That people's perception of their own health is more expansive than the view of health public health systems subscribe to. How do you prepare to speak in public? What’s your process? I will rehearse the presentation a couple of times but never on the day of the presentation. On that day, I will just try and relax. What was your process for writing the proposal? It was a collaborative process. We already had so many amazing things that we learned from an enriching design research process that has been going on for over...

An Interview with Payal Arora

Payal Arora is a Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Co-founder of FemLab, and author of award-winning books, including ‘The Next Billion Users’ with Harvard Press. She is a Keynote Speaker at EPIC2022.  Describe your keynote in less than 10 words. I will debunk common myths about users in the Global South and share insights on the future digital creatives. Without giving too much away, can you give us a bit of provocation or inspiration to anticipate your talk? In the last few years, many tech companies have set up 'next billion user' labs within their organizations with a focus on the vast young users coming online for the first time in the Global South. What these new users have in common are that they are from low-income, precarious, and often restrictive socio-political environments. These labs though are not altruistic initiatives but potential business opportunities for future market growth. According to the 2021 We Are Social and Hootsuite Digital Report, "the ‘next big trend’ in digital won’t emerge from...

An Interview with Kurt Ward

Kurt Ward is Senior Design Director at Philips Healthcare. He is a Keynote Speaker at EPIC2022. Describe your keynote in less than 10 words. Mankind's irrational rationality and its impact on health and the environment. Without giving too much away, can you give us a bit of provocation or inspiration to anticipate your talk? What if we designed buildings that mimicked organic structures? Why does sterilizing our environments create more disease? What if health care became life care? Why did you say ‘yes’ to delivering a keynote to the EPIC community? We cannot continue to apply our current and past thinking to solve our modern problems. We must probe and explore new futures with relevant ethnographies in order to create a resilient ecosystem. The theme of the conference is ‘resilience’. What does this concept mean to you…and what does it NOT mean? The ability to expand and contract according to context and need over time. It must address the entire ecosystem over decades and it cannot only be applied to one intervention...

An Interview with Kelsie Nabben

Kelsie Nabben is a Researcher at RMIT University in Australia. She is presenting a paper at EPIC2022 titled "Ethnography as a Feedback Loop: Designing Complex, Automated Systems". Tell us about yourself in one sentence. I research the social outcomes of emerging technologies, especially decentralised infrastructures (eg. Blockchain). Describe your presentation in less than 10 words. The ethnography of a new form of participatory organising using software. Without giving too much away, what is the most interesting finding from your talk? Blockchain communities experimenting with “Decentralized Autonomous Organizations” are a rich field for ethnographic insights into the social dimensions of governance via technology. How do you prepare to speak in public? What’s your process? Don’t overly rely on notes, to ensure my brain is actively thinking about what I’m communicating, rather than passively trying to remember things. What was your process for writing the proposal? The proposal emerged organically as a creative expression...

An Interview with Traci Thomas

Traci Thomas is Principal Strategic Designer at Boston Consulting Group. She is presenting a PechaKucha at EPIC2022 called "Resilience: Lessons from a Period of Disruption." Tell us about yourself in one sentence. I’m a human-centered designer of unbridled curiosity, an empathetic adventurer, ambivert, social justice advocate, and strategic innovator. Describe your presentation in less than 10 words. A personal and introspective reflection of my experience with resilience Why did you choose the PechaKucha format for your presentation? I had never done a PechaKucha before, but I enjoy watching this style of presentation. It forces you to be very succinct and crisp in your storytelling. I also wanted to challenge myself to do something different other than a project case study and decided to submit something more personal and authentically me. How do you prepare to speak in public? What’s your process? Practice by myself and with others to get feedback. What was your process for writing the proposal? For this PechaKucha, it...

An Interview with Lisa Kleinman

Lisa Kleinman is Head of Design at Make.com in Germany and Co-chair of the EPIC2022 Case Studies Committee. Tell us about yourself in one sentence. I'm always seeking to be out of my comfort zone. Why did you say ‘yes’ to being on an EPIC committee? Interacting with the other committee members exposes me to new ways to talk about research and the craft that I wouldn't be able to learn just by reading an article. And, of course, being directly part of shepherding the EPIC submissions levels up my own critical thinking skills; plus, there's a lasting bond that's created with the authors that goes beyond the conference. When you think about the best proposals you read, what really made them stand out? A great EPIC submission will be re-purposed and become a part of how others instantiate their practice. For me, it's a combination of two main factors, and mainly this applies to case studies: specific & clear details about the method (especially as it relates to engaging stakeholders) and showcasing the insights in a framework...

An Interview with Laura Reiss

Laura Novaes Medeiros Reiss is an anthropologist and consultant in São Paulo Brazil, and a member of the EPIC2022 PechaKucha Committee. Tell us about yourself in one sentence. I'm an anthropologist passionate about people and how much we can learn from their everyday lives. Why did you say ‘yes’ to being on an EPIC committee? So that I could get even more involved and engage in a community that I believe in and find incredibly interesting. When you think about the best proposals you read, what really made them stand out? The topic the proposals decided to talk about - sometimes the simplest ones are the most interesting, and the path they chose to do it. Is this your first EPIC? I have been to São Paulo (2015), Montreal (2017), and the online conferences (2020, 2021). What would you like to say to people who are considering coming to EPIC for the first time? I think EPIC manages to navigate the academic and corporate worlds incredibly well, which is evident in the annual conferences. Coming to the conference means seeing...

An Interview with Rachel Wang

Rachel Wang is Head of Research & Founder at LTH Consulting in Shanghai and a member of the EPIC2022 Case Studies Committee. Tell us about yourself in one sentence. A curious mind experiencing the earth life in the human body. Why did you say ‘yes’ to being on an EPIC committee? The compassion for the living souls on earth, the expertise in gaining insights, and the intention to contribute to the greater good. When you think about the best proposals you read, what really made them stand out? How solid it is in design, how carefully it is executed, and how inspiring it is to our fellows. Is there a particular talk you’re looking forward to? I have gone through many great cases and am looking forward to hearing more from the speakers at the conference. What would you like to say to people who are considering coming to EPIC for the first time? Open your mind, join as many sessions as possible, and talk to people :) If you could recommend a book/article/podcast to our community, what would you recommend and why? Oprah's...

Favorite EPIC PechaKuchas

carrie yury performing a pechakucha at EPIC2015
In anticipation of our 18th annual conference, and in loving memory of two incredible EPIC people who championed this format—Paul Ratliff and Suzanne Thomas—we're sharing just a few of our favorite PechaKucha presentations. PechaKucha are performances of 20 image-rich slides that show for 20 seconds each—performance poetry with visual punch. They offer a creative and reflective format for sharing unique insights, perspectives, juxtapositions, and provocations about ethnographic work. It was...really hard to choose just a few performances to highlight (and I know I'll hear about what's left out!). So take this as an invitation to explore our video library, get ready for a fabulous new program of PechaKuchas for EPIC2022, and ponder your own PechaKucha submission for EPIC2023! Collateral Revelation PAUL RATLIFF, EPIC2014 Our work of investigating experience is rarely directed at personal transformation. The impact we seek to create is not specific to our participants or intended for them alone, if at all. We don’t go...

Techno|theory Deathmatch: “Using Theory in Research” Read-along

Image of game avatars from "Techno|theory Deathmatch"
A new cohort of EPIC members has just embarked on "Using Theory in Research"—a foundational EPIC Course taught by Kate Sieck, PhD (Senior Manager, Machine Assisted Cognition at Toyota Research Institute). We invite you to read along! In the first of six lectures and group seminar sessions, course participants explored what theory is and how it infuses our everyday work practices. Kate also covered the value of sociocultural theory, how it’s different from other approaches, its special value to work in business and organizational environments, and some foundational frameworks of society and culture. Kate recommended the following reading and listening for week one. Yep, that's cyborg-avatar Lucy Suchman with a WALL-E body. You'll also get to see Bruno Latour in Superman trunks. Have fun! You can also participate in the next course cohort. "Techno|theory Deathmatch" by Jay Dautcher, Mike Griffin, Tiffany Romain, Eugene Limb KATE SAYS: Certainly good methodological practices are important. However, our assumptions about people...

Our ‘New Normal’—The Sensory Landscape

street scene (decorative image)
By shifting from sanitized, frictionless experiences to multisensory, relational landscapes, brands and organizations can help people feel a sense of safety, community, and well-being. by PIERRE LEE and SERENA CHAO, Gemic Sanitization has been a key word during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sanitization not just in terms of cleanliness, but also in terms of the revised interactions people have had with each other and with the environment around them. COVID-19 has created a Sanitized Landscape – supposedly free of germs in the home, cars on the road, and close encounters with other bodies. As parts of the world slowly prepare for a ‘new normal’ post-pandemic, we propose that a fundamental part of this preparing involves looking not through the lens of a Sanitized Landscape, but a Sensory Landscape. This combines traditional senses of smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing with metaphysical perception – senses beyond the traditional that help people feel a sense of safety, comfort, connectedness, and well-being. This shift...

Facing the Future in Product Development: Prediction and Uncertainty in Decision Making

flower heads with sky in the background
Prediction can create a false sense of certainty – at great cost. Can uncertainty establish a more effective foundation for product development? by HELI RANTAVUO, Spotify Foresight. Tends. Megatrends. Forecasting. Speculative design. Predictive modelling. Impact estimating. These are some of the established methods that researchers and analysts use in trying to understand what the future might look like, and how the organisations we work for and with approach the future. A variety of research and design techniques are available for us to make sense of the future in a structured way. Ethnographers and anthropologists know how to study the present in order to speculate on the future; design teams employ futurecasts and speculative design; futures research employs a wide range of methods that cut across disciplines. With the availability of big data, forecasting and predictive modelling is growing more and more sophisticated. Sometimes I wonder, does the maturity of our methods and frameworks make us feel too confident about...