Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Design & Data


What does a data expert see when they look at a design problem? This panel immerses us in the practices of two data experts, both of whom have collaborated with ethnographers, as they navigate through design challenges in different ways. Chair Jeanette Blomberg draws the panelists and audience into conversation about synergies and challenges for interdisciplinary design collaborations.

Jeanette Blomberg is Distinguished Researcher at the IBM Almaden Research Center and Adjunct Professor at Roskilde University in Denmark. She has done foundational work on ethnography in design processes over three decades, and her current research is focused on organizational analytics and the linkages between human action, digital data production, data analytics, and business and societal outcomes. Before joining IBM, Jeanette was a member of the Work Practice and Technology group at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Director of Experience Modeling Research at Sapient Corporation, and Industry-affiliated Professor at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden, where in 2011 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate. Jeanette holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Davis, where she was a visiting professor and lecturer in cultural anthropology and sociolinguistics. She has been an active member of the EPIC community since its inception. Just a few of Jeanette’s key publications are “Positioning Ethnography within Participatory Design,” “Reflections on 25 Years of Ethnography in CSCW” (with Helena Karasti), An Anthropology of Services (with Chuck Darrah), and several important EPIC papers.

Artist-Engineer Marc Böhlen, aka RealTechSupport, is Professor of Computational Media at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he co-founded the Department of Media Study’s PhD program. His art work has been shown internationally and recognized in several awards including the VIDA/ALIFE award (2004) and the VILCEK digital arts award (2014). RealTechSupport and its research division RTS.RESEARCH seek new qualities from quantitative processes, supporting technical systems such that they become open to scrutiny and supportive of curiosity. They promote diversity in machine culture and innovation in mixed methods research methodology. Böhlen’s recent publications include “Killer Robots as Cultural Techniques,” “Watson Gets Personal: Notes on Ubiquitous Psychometrics,” and “The Making of Robot Care.”

Thomas Lee is the Director of Data Science at the Fisher Center for Business Analytics at Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. He teaches the core undergraduate course on decision modeling and is an architect of the business analytics curriculum at the Haas School. Tom’s research focuses on information and communication technologies to support innovation and new product development, including text and sequence mining methods. He has been a data science fellow at frog Design and has taught for Cooper Design on the integration of data science and user experience design methods. He has also served as a visiting scientist at the Computer Security Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a research engineer at MITRE Corporation, and a contractor at DynCorp-Meridian. Tom holds a BA in Political Science and a BS in Symbolic Systems from Stanford, and an MS in Technology Policy and PhD in Engineering Systems from MIT.