Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Representation & Representative-ness


Ethnographers take pride in representing people’s voices with fidelity, empathy, and deep contextual understanding. But our work can end up reinforcing a distinction between people who “have experience” that we study for insights and people who “have expertise” to use, shape, and monetize that experience. We’ll tackle a range of core questions:

As organizations increasingly value representations of “user” or “customer” experience, what responsibilities come with this role? To what extent are we confronting the ways that the anthropologist on the project gets used to distancing people from their own expertise about their everyday lives? When we present our research and recommendations to clients and communities, are we asked about whether the people we did our research among are “representative”? What does “representation” mean, in which contexts? How has that idea been used to disenfranchise people? Who are the people who are listened to as “representative?”

In some cases, emphasizing proportionate representation, for example, overlooks ways some users or people are disproportionately affected by certain practices or technologies, just as marginalized or minoritarian groups. This panel brings together practitioners working across many different sectors (health, finance, media, education) to discuss their own experiences around representation and “representativeness” within their research and work. How do we make visible those who are not in the room?

AMBER GREENE is Manager of Member Experience Research and Service Design at Cityblock Health, a tech-driven provider for underserved communities implementing local models of care. Amber also has been a user experience researcher and analyst at Flatiron Health, Weight Watchers, and Google. She holds a BA in public policy from Stanford University. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

JORDAN KRAEMER is a media anthropologist who brings critical perspectives to technology, design, and UX. She holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Irvine, and is completing a forthcoming book on emerging media, social class, and urban space in Berlin. She is currently a research associate at Implosion Labs LLC, in NYC, and an adjunct instructor at NYU Tandon, where she teaches feminist and queer STS and digital ethnography. She was previously a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Wesleyan University. She also writes and speaks about transnationalism, digital labor, feminist UX, mobility, and precarity. You can find her on Twitter @jordanisme and learn more about her work on her website.

DONNA LANCLOS is an anthropologist who has been working with libraries and higher education as her field site since 2009. Her first fieldwork was in the late 1990s in Northern Ireland, which prepared her well for dealing with the fragmented and fractious landscape of universities, libraries, and conflicting and confounding identities, practices, and priorities therein. She writes, thinks, and speaks about the nature of information, digital and physical places, and higher education generally. Her work is relevant not just to libraries or universities, but to conversations about how we as a society make sure that people have opportunities to learn how to think critically, to practice those skills, and to find their voices. She regularly presents workshops and talks on issues of digital practices and institutional change, and blogs about her work at You can also find her on Twitter, @DonnaLanclos.

RUCHIKA MUCHHALA is a filmmaker and design researcher based in New York City. She has directed and produced two feature documentaries that have been shown at international film festivals, broadcast on television, and screened at prestigious academic institutions. They are currently available on Netflix. With over a decade of experience in the television and film industry, Ruchika has produced television shows and documentaries for VICE Media, MTV, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Crime & Investigation Channel, and RedBull TV. She has also produced numerous independent films and campaign videos for nonprofit clients such as the Association for Women in Development, Acumen Fund, and grassroots organizations such as La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark, NJ. She holds a BA in film studies and sociology from The University of Michigan and an MFA in design for social innovation from The School of Visual Arts. She currently works at The Sound, where she works on recruiting, research planning, and shoots film. Check out her website to learn more about her work.

AUTUMN SANDERS FOSTER has worked with Fortune 500 companies, start-ups and non-profits, helping them grow their businesses by understanding their customers. She launched Quire Consulting in 2017 to provide customers access to ethnographic research and design strategy that brings real people into the center of the design process. She leads clients through experiences with end users to develop effective, scalable solutions to the challenges her clients face. Autumn has worked with clients across a range of industries including education, arts, health care, retail, human resources, CPG, consumer electronics, and food. Autumn sees community engagement as essential to her work and role as a citizen. She serves on the board of Space One Eleven, a contemporary art gallery and center for arts education. She joined the Birmingham YMCA’s marketing advisory team in 2018. She also teaches tennis to elementary students through Better Basics. Autumn holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University (Athens, OH) and master’s degrees in design management and graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA).