Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Reconfiguring Work in the Age of AI


A longer-term view of technology and social change offers key lessons for navigating the new generation of AI innovation.

What is the nature of expertise and work? How are they redefined, practiced, and personified as waves of technological and social change move in and out over time? This panel will take the long view of expertise and labor in innovation, UX, and applied social science in order to understand and respond to the current moment of tech labor contraction and new generation of artificial intelligence tools. Attendees will come away with a greater depth of understanding of how to navigate and present expertise, via a historical versus reactive view of the current moment on reconfigurations of work.


Melissa Cefkin (Panel Chair) is social and behavioral researcher and consultant who has played many roles at EPIC, and has had a long career as an anthropologist in industry, including having worked at Waymo, Nissan-Renault, IBM, Sapient and the Institute for Research on Learning. She specializes in people’s interactions with autonomous systems on the roads and at work, organizational practices and labor, and on enriching opportunities for the bridge between advanced degrees in the humanities and social sciences and work beyond the academy.

Lee Cesafksy is a UX Researcher who specializes in AI and advanced technologies in complex contexts. They have held FTE roles at Renault-Nissan, Lyft and Waymo, on topics including: Autonomous Vehicle social acceptance, human-in-the-loop work systems, driver navigation, and developer tools and productivity. They are currently in a contingent role at Meta (via Magnit), where they are working on AR/VR applications and the next generation of computing experience.

Shakima Jackson-Martinez is the Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at AnswerLab, where she leads the DE&I and talent acquisition functions. She is an advocate who specializes in foundational DE&I practices, inclusive talent acquisition, and building organizational empathy through internal research. Shakima has over 15 years of corporate experience in Human Resources, Project Management, Strategy, and Operations. She is extremely passionate about using research to foster a deeper understanding of company culture and organizational needs while also creating spaces where people feel a true sense of belonging. Shakima is a member of the EPIC Equity Council and presented The Myth of the Pipeline Problem: Creating a Diverse and Thriving Team at EPIC2022.

Simon Roberts considers himself to have the best job in the world: researching the emerging frontiers of people and technology and trying to land that understanding with impact in complex environments. His career began with a PhD on the satellite TV revolution in mid 1990s India. He started the UK’s first dedicated ethnographic research company, Ideas Bazaar, then led an R&D team at Intel’s Digital Health Group. In 2013, Simon co-founded Stripe Partners, a strategy and innovation consultancy. Simon is also EPIC Board President; he has been an EPIC author/presenter, curator, peer reviewer, and co-chair of EPIC2012 and EPIC2013. He writes and speaks widely on anthropology, ethnography, and technology. His recent book is The Power of Not Thinking.


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