The City as Organization: Ethnography for Alternative Futures

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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, Design Research, Anticipatory Anthropology

Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 129–148, ISSN 1559-8918,

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