Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Foundational AI: Navigating a Shifting Terrain


What kinds of theory, methods, collaborations and critical social perspectives can ethnographers use (or create) to influence the design, deployment and management of AI?

New deployments of foundational AI models in digital products have expanded public engagement with synthetic text, audio, images, and video production. Themes that ethnographers, data scientists and kin have worked on for decades are taking on new relevance: debates around adoption, trust, truth, responsibility, and power now permeate work places and civic institutions. Is this a moment of social and technological change that will shift the terrain of ethnographic work?

This session explores these themes, beginning with a substantial talk by Rogerio De Paula, a senior research scientist with two decades of experience in artificial intelligence, data science, human-machine collaboration, and ethnography. First, Rogerio maps the “AI” space, addressing:

  • What are the types and capabilities of foundational AI models that exist now, and what advances on the horizon?
  • What kinds of products and services do foundational models enable (and how might they shift what we mean by product/service)?
  • Who is involved in building and designing with AI, and how are engineering, design, research, and other roles evolving?
  • What kinds of frameworks, methods, collaborations and critical perspectives can ethnographers use (or create) to influence the design, deployment and management of AI models and products?

Next, Rogerio engages discussants Jofish Kaye, Tamara Kneese, and Britta Fiore-Gartland, who are doing innovative work on AI in industry, nonprofit, and academic spaces.

Featured Speaker

Rogerio De Paula is a senior research scientist and manager at IBM Research Brazil. He has more than 15 years experience conducting and leading research and development projects in the areas of artificial intelligence, data science, and human-machine collaboration. Currently, he leads research and development projects that aim at transforming how AI technologies can impact our ways of work, in particular, investigating how AI technologies can affect how teams work, how we measure team productivity and engagement, and how we assess skills and predict their demands. Rogerio is a scientist and humanist, as well as a long-time EPIC member and contributor and co-chair of EPIC2015 in São Paulo, Brazil.


Britta Fiore-Gartland is a Principal Researcher at Salesforce leading research on Salesforce’s AI platform and building trustworthy AI. She has published numerous scholarly papers and blog posts on topics ranging from human-centered data science and ethical AI to future of work and organizational innovation. Previously she was a Director of User Research for Tableau, leading analytics and AI research and Director of Research and faculty at the University of Washington eScience Institute, where she led a data science ethnography research program.

Jofish Kaye is Principal Research Scientist at Wells Fargo. He directs research teams to produce thoughtful, ethical, and impactful HCI and AI- driven products and prototypes, using tools such as user studies, surveys, big data, and even ethnography. He has held leadership roles in research and design at Yahoo, Mozilla, Elevance Health, and Anthem. Jofish holds a PhD in information science and has published over a hundred papers, chapters, and patents, chaired the CHI conference, and wrangles three children.

Tamara Kneese is a Senior Researcher and Project Director of Data & Society’s Algorithmic Impact Methods Lab. Before joining D&S, she was Lead Researcher at Green Software Foundation, Director of Developer Engagement on the Green Software team at Intel, and Assistant Professor of Media Studies and Director of Gender and Sexualities Studies at the University of San Francisco. Tamara holds a PhD in in Media, Culture and Communication and is author of Death Glitch: How Techno-Solutionism Fails Us in This Life and Beyond.

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