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 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...

A Fantastic Everyday Puzzle: Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’ Dark Fantastic Cycle

“Myth-making may be dangerous indeed for those of us who play in the dark… but let’s play anyway.” EBONY ELIZABETH THOMAS
a book review by VERONICA KIM HOTTON As we anticipate EPIC2021—yes, bring on the puns—I had the spectacular task of studying The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas. My goal was to find small ways to spark our EPIC community's curiosity ahead of her EPIC keynote. As a regular audiobook listener, I listened to the voice of Janina Edwards bring Ebony Thomas’ work from the page to my ears, and if you are looking to add an audiobook to your virtual shelf, it’s a fantastic audiobook; you should not hesitate. I also have the paper book and it is a wonder to hold. Because Ebony weaves in autoethnographic storytelling throughout her book, my personal experiences were what first drew me to this work. We both grew up in Michigan. Ebony was in Detroit and I was a white girl in one of the many suburbs spawned by White Flight. We are Generation X with “the holy trinity of our mid-1980s children’s films [being] The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, and—my favorite...

Representation and Expertise on the Conference Stage: Lauren Rhodes is Shifting Norms for Panels

We need to rethink who we put forward as experts. Who is not being represented? - Lauren Rhodes, Design Research Strategist, Crown Equipment Corp; Panels Chair, EPIC2021
Welcome to EPISODE FOUR in a series of conversations with some of the makers and speakers of EPIC2021—a global, virtual conference and community promoting ethnography for impact in business, organizations and communities. In this episode, Luc Aractingi talks with Lauren Rhodes, Design Research Strategist at Crown Equipment Corporation and Chair of the EPIC2021 Panels Program. Find out how Lauren is shifting norms about who gets staged as an "expert", and get her pro tips for networking and getting involved. TRANSCRIPT LUC: Hello and welcome to EPIC interviews, a series where we get to know the makers and the host of the conference EPIC2021. Today we are interviewing Lauren Rhodes. Hello, thanks for being here. LAUREN: Thank you for having me. LUC: I was wondering if you could describe your job to a stranger. LAUREN: If I could describe my job to a stranger. My actual title is Design Research Strategist at Crown Equipment Corporation, which is a manufacturing company based in New Bremen, Ohio. We make forklifts. The equipment...

Demonstrating the Impact of Ethnography: Chad Maxwell on ROI and New Kinds of Ethnographic Value

"Case studies are about impact and results that were driven by great ethnographic work." Chad Maxwell, Chief Strategy Officer, KSM & Co-chair, EPIC2021 Case Studies
Welcome to EPISODE TWO in a series of conversations with some of the makers and speakers of EPIC2021—a global, virtual conference and community promoting ethnography for impact in business, organizations and communities. In this episode, Luc Aractingi talks with Chad Maxwell, Chief Strategy Officer at Kelly Scott Madison and co-chair of the EPIC2021 Case Studies Committee. Find out how ethnographers demonstrate the impact of their work, and how ethnography can create new kinds of value in the future. TRANSCRIPT LUC: Hello and welcome to EPIC interviews, a series where we get to know the makers and the host of the conference EPIC. This year our theme is anticipation, and today we'll be interviewing Chad Maxwell, who's Chief Strategy Officer at KSM. Chad, thank you for coming. We're very excited to have you here today. Could you tell us more about your role at EPIC? CHAD: Sure. Thanks for having me. It is great to be here. My role at EPIC is I am one of the chairs for the case studies section of the conference. LUC: Could...

Perspectives on Post-COVID Business from a Quarantine Hotel: Jennifer Fuqua on the Challenge of Change

There are a lot of cultural and historical behaviors that are harder to change...but I believe we're getting to a better place. Jennifer Fuqua, Director of Experience Design North Asia, Ogilvy
Welcome to EPISODE THREE in a series of conversations with some of the makers and speakers of EPIC2021—a global, virtual conference and community promoting ethnography for impact in business, organizations and communities. In this episode, Luc Aractingi talks with Jennifer Fuqua, Director of Experience Design, North Asia, at Ogilvy. Jennifer is one of five panelists presenting the The Future of Business in a Post-COVID Landscape. We look forward to Fuqua's perspectives from Hong Kong, where she has been working with businesses and brands in Asia to help them grow and look into the future. TRANSCRIPT Luc: Hello and welcome to EPIC People, a series in which we'll be interviewing the makers and hosts of the upcoming conference, EPIC2021. This year our theme is Anticipation and we'll be interviewing today Jennifer Fuqua, who is an experienced designer at Oglivy. Jennifer thank you for coming. Jennifer: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Luc: Well, we're very excited to have you in today. To get us started, I was wondering if you...

Pepper’s Ghost to Mixed Reality: How Sarah Ellis Anticipates Futures at the Royal Shakespeare Company

"play with technology. Challenge that technology. Imagine it in different ways." Sarah Ellis, director of digital development, Royal Shakespeare Company
Welcome to EPISODE ONE in a series of conversations with some of the makers and speakers of EPIC2021—a global, virtual conference and community promoting ethnography for impact in business, organizations and communities. In this episode, Luc Aractingi talks with Sarah Ellis, Director of Digital Development at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Keynote Speaker at EPIC2021. Find out why artists are the consummate innovators and Shakespeare is on the cutting edge of mixed reality and emerging technologies! TRANSCRIPT LUC: Hello and welcome to EPIC interviews, a series where we get to know the makers and hosts of the conference EPIC 2021. Today we are interviewing Sarah Ellis, who is the Director of Digital Development at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Hello, thank you for coming. SARAH: Hello, nice to be here. LUC: I was wondering if you could tell us more about your role. SARAH: I work for the Royal Shakespeare Company and my job is the first job of its kind where I'm the Director of Digital Development. What that means is...

Computation, Philosophy, and Indigenous Futures: A Conversation with Jason Edward Lewis

Jason Lewis showing his digital installation "His Blood in Search of a Face"
by CASIANA PASCARIU, Mesa Community College We’re honored and excited to welcome EPIC2021 keynote speaker Jason Edward Lewis, Professor of Computation Arts at Concordia University, to our conference and community! Lewis is a thinker and maker whose work on next-generation AI systems fuses the technical and creative, mechanical and philosophical, computational and cultural. This work illuminates core aspects of the EPIC2021 theme Anticipation—centering social and cultural practices at the heart of emerging technologies and expanding prevailing assumptions about where the future will come from. For Lewis, next-generation AI comes from Indigenous places: “Our aim is to articulate a multiplicity of Indigenous knowledge systems and technological practices that can and should be brought to bear on the ‘question of AI.’” In anticipation of a phenomenal keynote presentation, EPIC member Casiana Pascariu talked with Lewis about the trajectory of his life and work. We’re grateful to them for sharing this story. —Ed. “I...

Considering the Futures of Ethnography for Social Change: An Interview with Panthea Lee

Panthea Lee: As ethnographers we can guide conversations and support conflict mediation in ways that do not just further entrench people in their positions.
By VICTORIA LOWERSON BREDOW and CONNIE MCGUIRE, Research Justice Shop "As ethnographers we can guide conversations and support conflict mediation in ways that do not just further entrench people in their positions." —Panthea Lee In August 2021, we connected with EPIC2021 keynote speaker Panthea Lee—strategist, organizer, designer, and facilitator, and Executive Director of Reboot. Panthea is a pioneer in designing and guiding multi-stakeholder processes to address complex social challenges, with experience in 30+ countries with partners including UNDP, MacArthur Foundation, Luminate, CIVICUS, Wikimedia, Women’s Refugee Commission, and governments and civil society groups at the national, state, and local levels. We were excited to get to know Panthea, learn about her work, and now, share our conversation1 with the EPIC community in advance of her talk. How did you come to do the work you do now? —Victoria I am from Taiwan. My family lived there during one of the longest periods of martial law in the world, 38 years. I think...

Feedback Fatigue: Redesigning the Research Process for Sustainable Insights

The best textbook method may not be the best-applied method.
by CAITLIN MCCURRIE, Atlassian For the best-quality insights, design research for the experience of participating, not the method alone. When you think of running a diary study, we guess that Confluence isn’t the first research tool that comes to mind. Confluence is best known as a tool for knowledge management and team collaboration and not a platform to host a diary study, but with limitation comes creativity. In an effort to overcome the limitations in our research process we discovered an innovative and sustainable means to interact with our user population. From adapting Confluence into a longitudinal research tool to removing research tools and touchpoints, we’ve redesigned our research process to support ongoing contact with our user population. Through our journey, we’ve found three key learnings that have removed friction in the participation experience and improved the quality of our work. Design with your participant’s experience in mind, not just your preferred methodology. Use your knowledge of your population’s...