Advancing the Value of Ethnography

From Users to User Ecosystems



User research and human-centered design help us solve real challenges and create better experiences. But there’s a problem: when we explore user experiences, we often frame these as individual, personal engagements with products and services. This can cause us to miss ways that experiences may be interconnected and systemic across multiple users and artifacts.

This EPIC Talk will explore the idea of “user ecosystems” and their importance to design and ethnographic research. It will introduce a new book and toolkit, Rethinking Users: The Design Guide to User Ecosystem Thinking.

In discussion with the book’s authors and illustrator and breakout sessions with participants and we will explore practical ways that user ecosystem thinking can expand our imagination and our impact as ethnographers, innovators, and designers.


Mike Youngblood is Principal at The Youngblood Group, an innovation consultancy focused on social and environmental impact. He holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and has worked in design and innovation consulting since the year 2000. His first book, Cultivating Community, is an ethnographic study of people’s complex roles, motivations and experiences in a massive, grassroots social movement in India.

Benjamin Chesluk is currently Senior Researcher for Ethnographic Research at the American Board of Internal Medicine. Ben earned his PhD in cultural anthropology at the University of California–Santa Cruz. Since 2005 he has been conducting anthropological research to understand and improve health care. He is also the author of Money Jungle, an anthropological study of the redevelopment of New York City’s Times Square.

Nadeem Haidary is a UX designer at Amazon Lab126 working on emerging technology at the intersection of digital and physical experiences. He holds a BFA in industrial design from Carnegie Mellon University and has worked in design consulting and technology since 2010. He has contributed work to Data Flow 2 and Drawing Ideas and earned worldwide press for his exploration of data-driven flags.

Related Articles & Presentations:

Watch more talks and tutorials on demand:

Video Icon

To watch the video presentation,

Learn about membership