Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Data Walks into a Bar: A Love Story


Cite this article:

2019 EPIC Proceedings,

PechaKucha Presentation

As a qualitative researcher, I was always a bit afraid – if not disdainful – of quantitative data. This pecha kucha tells the uneasy love story of how and why I fell in love with quantitative data. Transitioning from life as an ethnographer who avoided quantitative work at any cost, I found myself working as an applied researcher using a method that relied heavily on large amounts of quantitative data. I had to learn how to tell a story using a data format with which I was relatively unfamiliar. I was also doubtful about quantitative data and that it was often privileged over qualitative work and angry at the power it sometimes held over people’s lives. However, as I began to get closer to it, I realized that I was ascribing quantitative data an agency of its own, an agency it definitely doesn’t have. I moved through my doubt and ultimately came to fall deeply in love with the sweet spot that exists when we can marry qualitative and quantitative data to give voice to those whose agency has sometimes been stripped from them through the use of quantitative data and instead use it to help tell a more insightful and complete story.

Tabitha Steager is an anthropologist and UX researcher with special interest in place and community, food, visual ways of knowing, and Indigenous rights. She received her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies (anthropology and human geography) from the University of British Columbia. She has conducted research in Canada, the United States, Mexico, England, France, Italy, and with First Nations across British Columbia. She currently leads the UX Research practice for Workday Analytics products.