Christina Wasson

Contributed Articles

Autonomous Vehicle Study Builds Bridges between Industry and Academia

BRIGITTE JORDAN Nissan Research Center, Silicon Valley CHRISTINA WASSON University of North Texas Researchers have long explored the desirability and benefits of industry-university collaborations and acknowledge they can be fraught with difficulties. We examine one such alliance, focused on driverless cars, a current hot topic in the public imagination and in technology design. Our collaboration began as an alliance between two anthropologists, one a professor at the University of North Texas, the other a consultant with the Nissan Research Center in Sunnyvale, California. We designed a research project for a design anthropology course that Christina Wasson taught in Fall 2014. Brigitte Jordan, at the time, was conducting an informal ethnography class for engineers and computer scientists at NRC. Our alliance had two objectives: to determine what a successful industry-university collaboration could look like when it involves ethnographic research in the high-tech sector, and to provide insights into usable ethnographic methods and...

Ethnographic Study Lifts the Hood on what REALLY Goes On inside that Car

by BRIGITTE JORDAN (Nissan Research Center - Silicon Valley), CHRISTINA WASSON (University of North Texas), and HEATHER S. ROTH-LOBO (University of North Texas) Driverless cars—the term, the fantasy, promises a pinnacle of automotive engineering that takes the human entirely out of the picture. But the closer the technology comes to reality, the more obvious it becomes that “driverless” doesn’t mean “people-less.” The automotive industry needs answers to questions that are fundamentally human and understanding of issues that are fundamentally social. We need to understand the social life of the car. No stranger to Silicon Valley hi-tech labs, Gitti’s charge at Nissan was to establish ethnography and design anthropology as foundational components of research that would underlie all aspects of the human-centered design that was the Lab’s purpose and ambition. The goal was to provide a path for thinking outside (and inside) of the technology box to generate actionable and inspirational techno-social insights. As she...

Celebrating the Cutting Edge

CHRISTINA WASSON This paper examines and celebrates the notion of the “cutting edge” as it applies to ethnographic praxis in industry. First of all, EPIC is the first-ever business anthropology conference. Secondly, the conference is just one example of the growth and mainstreaming of the field of design anthropology. Thirdly, the field of design is, after all, all about innovation, and anthropologists who work in this area can provide examples of leading practices to anthropologists working in other domains of application. At the same time, design anthropologists can also learn from more mature varieties of practice. For instance, thoughtful practitioners in other fields have come to regard themselves as “scholar-practitioners,” rejecting the dichotomization of scholarship and practice. Adopting such an identity would serve those design anthropologists well who are engaged in branding efforts to highlight the importance of their analytical training and skills....

“It Was Like a Little Community”: An Ethnographic Study of Online Learning and its Implications for MOOCs

CHRISTINA WASSON In this time of social, technical, educational and industrial upheaval, time and space are being compressed and stretched as social actors develop new practices in response to shifts in their lived experience. In the American educational sector, these phenomena have crystalized in the meteoritic rise of MOOCs, massive open online courses. The story of their ascent weaves together neoliberal shifts in financing education, technology developments, and perceived business opportunities. MOOCs have captured the imagination of the business press, venture capitalists, and university leaders. However, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the perceptions of students who are taking online courses – in other words, the users. Drawing on an ethnographic study of a small online class, this paper describes the limitations of MOOC pedagogies by comparison with low-enrollment online courses, and concludes by casting doubt on the effectiveness of MOOC learning experiences as well as MOOC business models....



Christina Wasson

Position Professor
Affiliation Department of Anthropology
Bio About yourself and your career (limit 400 characters)
City Denton
State Texas
Country United States
Areas of Expertise
Geographic United States
Topical Energy
, Environment
, Higher Education
, Interaction Design, 
Social Media
, Technology
, User Experience Design, 
User Interface Design, 
Languages English, French, German
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