Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Diagnosing the World Pulse


Cite this article:

2018 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, p. 701, ISSN 1559-8918,

PechaKucha Presentation

This PechaKucha explores the ethics of interpreting data by employing an extended metaphor of data as the lifeblood of the connected world. It begins by exploring two distinct viewpoints on medical pulse diagnosis, starting from the perspective of the acupuncturist diagnosing a patient’s pulse and continuing through differences between Eastern pulse diagnosis and biomedical pulse diagnosis. I explore data as lifeblood, and imagine more visceral ways to read data (e.g., auguring data) and the ethical implications of such a reading. I envision data as a flowing river filling a lake, in which diagnostic specialists observe society’s reflection. In the process, I contrast utopian visions of a data driven world with dystopian ones before resolving tension by returning to the central comparison of data scientist and medical doctor. The presentation concludes by recalling medicine’s Hippocratic Oath, an ethical charter binding practitioners to a code of conduct, and implying that data science consider a similar injunction.

Christopher Golias is a technology ethnographer who has conducted applied anthropological research across various areas including retail, healthcare, indigenous rights, substance use, mobile technology, retail, governance, and information technology. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania.