Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Collateral Revelation


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2014 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918.

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 into the field to midwife individual discovery or revelation, and this may be why we don’t notice how often it happens. We change people. We change their minds, their behaviors, their understanding of themselves.

We use the tools of our trade – curiosity and empathy, questioning and watching and listening – to cultivate the conditions of discovery that serve our objectives. But what gets discovered and by whom is not bound by our intent, and what results can be surprising.

This Pecha Kucha uses the experiences of participants and practitioners to examine our role as incidental change agents and explore what this says about the value of our work.

Paul Ratliff is an ethnographer and design strategist. He joined E-lab in 1996, and was Senior Manager of Experience Modeling for Sapient London. Since 2002 he has been an independent design and innovation consultant. He currently lives in Los Angeles.