Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Paradoxical Thinking as a Gateway to Socio-Cultural Insights


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2016 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, p. 543, ISSN 1559-8918,

PechaKucha—Paradoxical thinking can reveal complex emotions and beliefs, even self-contradictory behaviors. It can also provide a gateway to the socio-cultural forces that underpin a topic. In a project on IT security, we encountered a participant whose paradoxical beliefs influenced his approach to managing risk in his personal life. Though as an IT security director, he ‘immunized’ his company against potential security breaches and data loss, as a father he chose not to have his son immunized against disease, even though he went to great lengths to protect him in every other way. This encounter inspired me to delve more deeply into the socio-cultural context surrounding the opposition to vaccination in the U.S.

Elizabeth Anderson-Kempe, PhD, is a partner in Artemis Research By Design, a consultancy that helps companies develop new products and services grounded in human-centered insights. A cultural historian by training, for over 18 years – in the US and internationally – she has been applying her research skills to business and design challenges.