Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Forecasting Friction: Ethnofutures Techniques for Creative Scenarios and Strategic Decisions


A new era of research requires a shift from narrowly defined user studies to integrated data and social science.

Learn how to integrate various forecasting techniques with your existing ethnographic and research toolkits. We’ll review essential skills and methodologies from applied foresight research: signals (such as horizon scanning), drivers (aka megatrends) and ethnographic futures interviews and observations. Ethnofutures interviews focus on groups at the leading edge of your research domain, and elicit the experiences and values of today to forecast potential futures.

Our tutorial team consists of people with decades of experience in both ethnography and forecasting, as well as ethnographers working now in industry. We will coach researchers in techniques to help clients/partners to imagine how organizations can expand the “rules of success” to build resilience into their use of our work. The tutorial consists of hands-on group work followed by discussion and unpacking, with opportunities to explore use cases for ethnofutures and apply it to your own work.

Participants are asked to complete a light reading assignment (15 minutes) and one simple video-based (15 minute) exercise on signals basics prior to the tutorial to help us make the most of our time together.


Jan English-Lueck, Professor of Anthropology, San Jose State University and Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future

Jan 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 books on Silicon Valley including Cultures@SiliconValley (second edition), winner of the American Anthropological Association’s 2006 Diana Forsythe Prize for the anthropology of science and technology. English-Lueck is Past President of the American Anthropological Association’s Society for the Anthropology of Work. As a member of the graduate faculty in applied anthropology, she integrates ethnographic design futures into her students’ training with partners ranging from the Silicon Valley Alliance (Renault Nissan Mitsubishi) to Japantown Prepared!

Rod Falcon, Director, Technology Futures Lab, Institute for the Future

Rod Falcon brings his extensive experience directing research and teams at IFTF to his current role co-leading IFTF’s IFTF Vantage Partnership. With a deep background in public health policy, he has served in several different capacities at IFTF since 1995, including leading the Food Futures and Health Futures programs and leading research for the Tech Futures program. In the course of his work, Rod speaks to executive audiences and helps them find innovative strategies for participating in the global economy. His research focus areas have included personal health technologies, communication and messaging practices in the workplace and home, social networks and abundant connectivity, and health-aware environments.

Lyn Jeffery, Director, Foresight Essentials, Institute for the Future

Lyn Jeffery leads IFTF’s Foresight Essentials program, supporting people, organizations, and communities to develop their own foresight capacities. A cultural anthropologist and an IFTF Distinguished Fellow, Lyn explores how people make sense of the rapidly changing world around them, whether a “left-behind” child in a Sichuan village, a leader in a multinational organization developing their own futures thinking skills, or an amateur musician experimenting with new VR instruments. Before joining IFTF, Lyn worked in China as a tour guide, nonprofit researcher, Fulbright scholar and television producer. Lyn has enduring interests in learning experience design, mobility, social media, collaborative technologies. She holds a BA in Chinese Studies and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Jasmine Low, User Experience Researcher, Waymo

Jasmine Low is an anthropologist and experience researcher exploring spaces where people and emerging technology meet. For two years, she led research with testers and early adopters of autonomous ride hailing at Waymo, working alongside legacy researchers such as Melissa Cefkin, Rita Denny, and Mike Donovan. As a graduate researcher, she studied visitor experience at a science and technology center, Silicon Valley roboticists, and explored ways to develop VR for ethnography with Jan English-Lueck and Tina Korani. She received a M.A. in Applied Anthropology from San Jose State University in 2020.

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