by ELIZABETH CHURCHILL, Director of User Experience, Google
Concern with “big data” and ”data at scale” has pervaded many conversations in the past few years. Conversations orient around what “big data” really means, around the relationship of “small data” to “big data”, and around the relationship between “local” data and “global”, aggregate data. In the EPIC context, conversations veer towards anxiety regarding the relationship of ethnographic practice to quantitative data and whether the future of ethnography as an area of interest is in jeopardy. Will all questions regarding people, “users”, and markets be answered by brute force, number crunching?
The answer is absolutely NO.
It’s important to note that the ethnography community has a long-standing relationship with analysis of, and interpretation through, quantitative data at all scales and granularities. “Big” data and “data at scale” are not new. Stealing a snippet of Samuelle Carlson and Ben Anderson’s paper title from 2007,...
by CHRISTIAN MADSBJERG, ReD Associates
Since the mid-nineties, the story about IT has been that the “New Information Economy” would give way to vast gains in productivity. We’ve been told that if we simply implement ERP, CRM, and God knows what other kinds of systems, our companies, public services, cities, and infrastructure would be smarter and more efficient. That we humans would be supercharged by technology and become vastly more productive as a result. After 20+ years, one would think there would be indications of this productivity boost at all levels of society, beyond just the valuations of the companies selling us the message. Yet that is not the case.
Let’s look at education. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which tracked the relationship between math performance and access to information and communication technology in schools from 2001 to 2012, there is actually an inverse relationship between how well our kids learn math and how many computers we put in our classrooms....
PechaKucha—Our homes are becoming instrumented glass houses where even the most intimate and personal acts may leave data footprints that companies providing services (and potentially others) can access. As homes become instrumented with data-generating technologies, existing information boundaries will be tested, and householders will take on the burden of creating new boundaries on information about their homes lives. Existing low-tech methods of obfuscating activities will no longer suffice. As ethnographers working on smart home solutions, we wonder: what information about which daily activities and home conditions will make householders uncomfortable living in glass houses? Who do people imagine will be looking through those glass facades, and what do they worry about them ‘seeing’? Even when the activities they consider sensitive are self-described as ‘normal’, how do we design smart home solutions so...
Xerox Research Centre India, Bengaluru
Xerox Research Centre India, Bengaluru
Xerox Research Centre India, Bengaluru
The paper attempts to offer a method to consistently monitor and capture a data eco-system in the everyday of a patient-caregiver relationship. We offer an account of the capture and intermeshing of different types and quality of data sources and their gainful deflection into a methodological protocol for ethnographic engagements. We call this the ‘360° feedback’ ethnography and elaborate its underlying methodological process in this paper. Building on the live feedback obtained from various stakeholder activities in a care ecosystem, we propose how a 360° feedback can enrich regenerative knowledge....
The EPIC community has been wrestling with ways to integrate quantitative and qualitative methods in light of the increasing role that digital data plays in business practices. Some focus on methodological issues (digital data as method), while others point to the consumer value in data products (data as thing in the world). This paper argues that “digital data as method” and “digital data as thing in the world” are becoming increasingly intertwined. We are not merely witnessing ethnographers’ haulting embrace of digital data, but a wider process of the domestication of data, in which we, alongside the people we study, are participants. The domestication of data involves everyday situations in which ordinary people develop their own sense-making methods—methods remarkably similar to ethnographic knowledge production. In this way, the domestication process tightens the connection between data as thing in the world and data as method. I argue that seeing the interconnection gives us the...
For several years we have been building and using an open mobile research platform, called Paco, that enables the scaling of qualitative research through quantitative, computational techniques. The platform provides a mechanism to design and deliver remote research instruments to mobile devices in the field and it provides mechanisms to abstract and develop new research tools....
by CHRISTINE BIRTEL (Senior Vice President), JASON PAJTAS (Vice President) and MICHELLE GREEN (Vice President), Customer Experience Insights, Wells Fargo
Large organizations have been on a quest to harness the power of big data to inform and drive all kinds of decisions—from finance and fraud prevention to product development and marketing. Organizations from the U.S. government, to retailers, to major financial institutions are appointing Chief Data Officers (CDOs) to evangelize the power of big data.
The path of creating a data-savvy organization, however, has complicated turns and roadblocks. Starting with the technological foundation for analytics, there exists a dizzying array of platform and software solutions all claiming to be best-in-class. When success drives an organization beyond this foundation, evolving an existing culture and data infrastructure around things like cloud, big data, machine intelligence and block chain can be an overwhelming challenge that seems insurmountable. Beyond infrastructure challenges,...
EPIC Profiles Series
by CHRISTINE T. WOLF, IBM Research
How can risk-taking propel an ethnographic career? Just ask Jeanette Blomberg, who is no stranger to professional risk-taking. Her career journey, including major contributions at foundational tech giants in Silicon Valley, has centered on making participation in various forms core to ethnographic work. Jeanette is Principal Researcher at IBM Research – Almaden Research Center (ARC), where she has been for 13 years. Previously, she was Director of Experience Modeling at Sapient, Professor at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden, and founding member of the Work Practice and Technology group at Xerox – PARC (Palo Alto Research Center).
I’ve gotten to know Jeanette over the past year, working as an intern and student researcher in the area of work practice analytics under her guidance at IBM. We set aside time to discuss her professional experiences on the occasion of her recent induction into IBM’s Academy of Technology, a high honor within the corporation...
by NIMMI RANGASWAMY, SAURABH SRIVASTAVA, TEJASVIN SRINIVASAN & PRIYANKA SHARMA (Xerox Research Centre, Bengaluru, India)
Article 6 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives
How must we conjure up smart spaces?
‘Smart city’ has become an over-indulged urban metaphor, whipping up an apparition of dispersed, highly networked and interconnected socio-economic, infrastructural and communication nodes. The smart city narrative seems to dwell on the idea of cites as ‘receptacles for technology’—and qualitative transformations are brought about by the application of technologies. Even after decades of research to the contrary, we still tell ourselves stories about the inevitable march of technology and its deterministic effect on culture and behavior.
But aren’t cities also places that give birth to technologies? As researchers we are drawn to the miraculous nature of technology to sense, track and quantify not only human use of infrastructure but also the human ‘self’. We are working to...
by LAURA FORLANO, IIT Institute of Design
Article 4 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives
On April 1, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced a $317 million federally funded initiative in textile innovation and manufacturing—a national consortium of public and private organizations to be led by MIT. It’s only the most recent project of the Obama administration’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, a major effort to re-invigorate the American economy. This ambitious initiative to build manufacturing infrastructure nationwide plans an initial network of 45 Manufacturing Innovation Institutes over 10 years. Led by non-profit organizations, the institutes partner universities, businesses and government agencies with the aim of bridging the gap between basic and applied research in key manufacturing areas such as additive manufacturing (eg, 3D printing), digital manufacturing, lightweight metals, semiconductors, advanced composites, flexible hybrid electronics and integrated photonics.
EPIC Profiles Series
by HEATHER S. ROTH-LOBO, University of North Texas
John W. Sherry, Director the Experience Innovation Lab at Intel Corporation, is a Keynote Speaker at EPIC2016—join us!
“Anthropology is really undersold.”
Dr. John Sherry’s words carry weight—he is Director of the Experience Innovation Lab at Intel Corporation. In addition to discovering ways to power innovation in this major multinational technology company, he works in Portland leading Oregon Smart Labs, an external business accelerator.
I recently talked with John about innovation, big data, and lean startup. He has made it part of his life´s work to interpret the way markets move and ideas shift around, and his intimate understanding of these dynamics has been driven by his passion for solving social problems with a creative imagination. The mixture of these elements paved John’s successful career as an established anthropologist in a company known for and reinventing computing around the world.
Anthropology is not only undersold,...
by DAWN NAFUS, Intel
There has been a good deal of discussion of the relationship between the EPIC community and new practices of big data. Will the data scientists have the final word on what people value? Are we ethnographers effectively getting disrupted by cheaper and worse data? In a wider sense, what kind of a culture would we live in when stories of lived experience get increasingly sidestepped in favor of a newly re-empowered aggregate? Story would surely still matter, but the population of people in any position to tell stories with data would narrow drastically. This is not an inevitability, of course, and members of the EPIC community have written about reclaiming quantification in various ways (above, also contributions from Neal Patel and yours truly here).
It turns out we are not the only ones asking these larger questions. The Quantified Self community is too, albeit for different reasons. I began my research in quantified self, admittedly, because the name alone suggested some of my worst fears about what technology...
Good afternoon, everyone. It is a complete pleasure to be here. Can I say a very special thank you to Timothy and to Ken for inviting me to join you here this year. It’s been really interesting to hear so many fantastic talks. My name is Kate Crawford. As you heard, I work at Microsoft Research and at MIT out of NYU, and so I’m one of those multi-affiliation people. What I research are spaces where data, algorithms, and people intersect. Over my research life, that has included things like looking at how flagging systems work on platforms through to how we understand and interpret crisis data, through to high frequency trading algorithms. What I’ve been doing for say the last four or five years, is in looking at the politics and ethics of big data, specifically looking at how we might consider the epistemologies and ethical systems that are emerging with this new set of technological practices. But today I actually want to talk about something different. I want to talk about the effects of big data; In other words,...
by SALLY A. APPLIN, University of Kent, Canterbury - Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing
The United States is in the midst of a new chapter in policing. In several very public cases, police have made fatal errors with regard to identifying criminal suspects and have shot and killed unarmed citizens by mistake. Societal outrage, protests and debates have ensued as these types of episodes continue to occur, reigniting important conversations about racism, socioeconomic divides, and policing budgets.
Unfortunately, there is a major aspect of contemporary law enforcement that rarely makes an appearance in the ongoing conversations about policing; the communications landscape within which police systems are embedded, and the complex interrelationship between the police, their communications systems, and the people that they serve and protect. Police vehicles contain massive amounts of communications equipment, and it is worth examining whether or not communications equipment in police vehicles is standard between vehicles; which...