Exploring Ethnofutures

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An EPIC Talk with MIRIAM LUECK AVERY (Mozilla), JAN ENGLISH-LUECK (San Jose State University), TESSA FINLEV (Institute for the Future),  LYNN JEFFERY (Institute for the Future), & FERNANDO GALDINO

4 April 2019, 1:00 pm Pacific Time
Free online event, pre-registration & EPIC Membership required

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The anthropological imagination can be exponentially expanded by anticipating the consequences of human action. Futures thinking—strategic research that helps us systematically explore what the future may hold—is increasingly being combined with anthropological techniques to create an emerging area of research called Ethnographic Futures, or ethnofutures. Ethnofutures helps us sense cultural and behavioral change in order to forecast long-term impacts and societal transformations.

In this webinar we have three objectives. First, we want to introduce EPIC practitioners to an ethnofutures approach, laying the foundation for how anticipatory anthropology and futures thinking can be used in ethnographic practice. Second, we will identify several techniques that can be used to think systematically about possible futures, using today’s evidence. Finally, we will present several concrete examples of how an ethnofutures approach can be useful in corporate contexts, demonstrating how futures thinking can benefit practitioners, particularly those who must think strategically about the directions of their companies. The instructors in this webinar will lay out principles and examples pertinent to their practices, and facilitate discussion among webinar participants.


Miriam Lueck Avery is an anthropologist and foresight strategist. She sits in the Emerging Technologies R&D group at Mozilla, where she has been building a foresight capability  sensing change, communicating vision, explore new opportunities to shape an internet that truly puts people first.  She cut her teeth on futures at the Institute for the Future, where for the past decade she investigated how we may take care of ourselves and one another through health care, food, work, caregiving, and technology, as well as leading the Foresight Studio training initiative. She holds a degree in Anthropology from U.C. Berkeley.

Dr. Jan English‑Lueck is a Professor of Anthropology at San Jose State University, and a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future. English-Lueck has written ethnographies about the anthropology of work, science and technology among California’s alternative healers and China’s scientists. She is also the author of several Stanford University Press books on SiliconValley includingCultures@SiliconValley, winner of the American Anthropological Association’s 2006 Diana Forsythe Prize for the anthropology of science and technology, now in the second edition, as well as two other ethnographies of the region.  She is currently President of the American Anthropological Association’s Society for the Anthropology of Work.  She is one of the graduate faculty in Applied Anthropology and integrates ethnographic design futures into her students’ training.

Tessa Finlev is a research Director at Institute for the Future. She has been in the futures field for over a decade. During that time she has been using her background in international development, political economy, and peace-building to adapt futures thinking methodology for social change. She regularly teaches futures thinking methodology to audiences around the world—from Kenya to Sudan, Ukraine to Ethiopia, and of course, virtually. Whether she’s researching the future of a particular topic to help a client make sense of the changing world around them, or designing a process for a community to develop their own visions of possible futures, Tessa brings a focus to how shifting power dynamics and new identities are shaping the way we do everything—including how we innovate, work, design policy, and even how we reach new markets.

Lyn Jeffery is a cultural anthropologist who collects stories of change from around the world and tracks the new social practices that make you shake your head in wonder or concern about where we’re heading. Her core interest is in exploring how people make sense of the rapidly shifting world around them, whether it’s a “left-behind” child in a Sichuan village, an executive in a large multinational organization, or an amateur musician experimenting with new digital tools. She is passionate about understanding how people are using ubiquitous information and digital co-presence to express themselves in new ways and form new kinds of social relationships. An IFTF Distinguished Fellow, Lyn leads IFTF’s EDU program, developing and delivering futures thinking training to public and private sector practitioners around the world. She contributes to IFTF’s Future 50 annual research program. Fluent in Mandarin, she has several decades of experience doing research in China. She enjoys designing bespoke research projects, group processes, and foresight presentations for a wide range of audiences. Lyn holds a BA in Chinese Studies and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Fernando Galdino is a design researcher who has worked with a wide variety of companies, helping them to envision future possibilities as well as create products and services that resonate with people. Currently he is working to build bridges between ethnographic research and futures studies. Fernando is an Italizian/Brazilian living in Germany with degrees in industrial design and design ethnography.