Advancing the Value of Ethnography

The Story As Evidence: It’s Yours, It’s Mine, It’s Theirs


Cite this article:

2018 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, p. 695, ISSN 1559-8918,

PechaKucha Presentation

I’ve been reflecting on my role in the use and abuse of evidence — in the past as a radio producer and more recently as a writer in a design research company. Storytelling is held aloft as something businesses need to do more of — and be better at — but often the narratives do not belong to businesses. We are re-tellers. The work of a writer presenting design research isolates evidence from its source. There are limits to what we can do to make sure evidence is considered alongside the intention it was gathered with. I started working on this because I wanted to share my indignation at evidence I gathered being misrepresented. My editors have turned stories of triumph into stories of disaster to get more clicks. But I’ve noticed the similarity between my questioning of editors, and the anthropologists I work with questioning me.

Evidence exists in relation to questions. Defining the things we’re curious about helps us focus, and decide which evidence to seek out. Ethnographers need to be so careful about the way we communicate throughout a project, lest the evidence we gather is carried away to serve a question we never wanted to ask.

Nik Jarvie-Waldrom is a writer and content designer who finds efficient, powerful ways to help people understand each other. Her experience as a producer of human interest radio documentaries feeds into her creative approach to writing, and equips her to identify, structure and clarify relatable narratives.