Considering Ethnography in Various Business Settings – What Is Success?

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Moderator: TRACEY LOVEJOYPanelists: GENEVIEVE BELL, JEANETTE BLOMBERG, TIMOTHY MALEFYT, RICK E. ROBINSON

Between Hype and Promise: Two Decades of Becoming

JEANETTE BLOMBERG

The invitation to participate in this panel has been an occasion for a personal reflection on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re heading. The “we” here is not all encompassing, but instead references the people with whom I have shared all or part of a journey that began more than two decades ago. I want to begin by recounting a recent conversation I had with my friend and colleague, Lucy Suchman. Having been at IBM Research for about a year, I was telling Lucy about all the press coverage I was getting, you know the – surprise, surprise, anthropologists at Big Blue – sort of thing. Lucy smiled and reminded me of the file she’d been keeping for the last couple of decades, now quite hefty, with articles proclaiming the discovery of anthropologists or ethnographers in the corporate world. We had a good laugh, sighed, and then wondered how far we’d really come.

So what’s up with this? Why are we discovered every couple of years? Of course, there’s the seemingly irresistible journalistic appeal of the image of the...

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