Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Holidays and the Anticipation of Ritual


Cite this article:

2021 EPIC Proceedings p 348, ISSN 1559-8918,

PechaKucha Presentation:

COVID-19 disrupted so much. It also disrupted rituals, holidays and events on an incredible scale. Many of us lost track of time without these expected markers.

But 2021 is all about a new perspective. I found myself anticipating and wanting to engage with rituals as never before. January 2021 was the beginning of a journey to reestablish ritual and patterns of time. I chose to note and celebrate and anticipate simple holidays. This is new territory for me as I did not celebrate holidays to any degree pre-2021. They were noted but I did not really participate. That has changed. The curious researcher in me is on a journey to explore and embrace holidays and ritual. I now anticipate holidays instead of being a passive passenger in time. Calendars adorn my walls and I plan holidays like people plan vacations. And I’m shopping…

I think this effort is underpinned by observation. I’m really taking a step back to see these rituals with new eyes. I’m even excited to buy holiday themed postage stamps! Who does that?! Well, me now. A big part of the enjoyment is deconstructing holidays into anthropological components – color, food, patterns, icons, context, clothing, decorations, symbols, etc. All researchers should embrace these rituals as a kind of cognitive and temporal exercise and use these experiences to connect with people, colleagues and participants. I’ve been able to use this holiday hobby to entertain and amuse, but more importantly, to connect with people. At first virtually, but now more and more in real life. It’s whimsical, It’s fun, it’s silly, but it’s a new story that my socially-distanced friends and family can engage with.

Anticipation is all about curiosity and the future. Holidays can help build muscle memory for experience, connection and empathy which are critical skills for researchers and the curious. Participating in rituals like holidays is a way to become a better observer. Think of it as temporal exercise.

Rob Murray is the Global Leader for Experience Intelligence at IBM Consulting. He leads the go-to-market efforts for the experience management practice. Rob helps clients get to better insights through multiple data gathering, synthesis, and analysis methods. He began his career at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry as an exhibit designer. Rob applies his curiosity, design thinking tools, and analysis methods to bring insights and innovation to clients. He also loves holidays.