Cultural Transitions – WWMD? Ethical Impulses and the Project of Ethnography in Industry

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We are at an early moment in the formation of an ethnographic project in and of the corporate world. I suggest that the work of ethnography in industry would benefit from being conceptualized as project in its own right. This paper seeks guidance inspired by earlier practitioners and scholars of ethnography and design as to how to think about the potential of this project and attempts to tease out some of the ethical impulses that underlie this project. This consideration is particularly timely in light of a current interest of companies in the motivations, practices and behavior of the people through which they achieve their goals. This interest is especially relevant in the context of services–an area of particular growth and attention–in that with services what is being sold or exchanged is the performance of the people, often acting with or through other resources. In light of the fact that ethnographers in industry are actors in services systems and are both subject to and influencers of the dynamics of the service economy, it is apt to explore our own practices and impulses at this point in time.

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