Welcome to EPISODE TWO in a series of conversations with some of the makers and speakers of EPIC2021—a global, virtual conference and community promoting ethnography for impact in business, organizations and communities.
In this episode, Luc Aractingi talks with Chad Maxwell, Chief Strategy Officer at Kelly Scott Madison and co-chair of the EPIC2021 Case Studies Committee.
Find out how ethnographers demonstrate the impact of their work, and how ethnography can create new kinds of value in the future.
LUC: Hello and welcome to EPIC interviews, a series where we get to know the makers and the host of the conference EPIC. This year our theme is anticipation, and today we'll be interviewing Chad Maxwell, who's Chief Strategy Officer at KSM. Chad, thank you for coming. We're very excited to have you here today. Could you tell us more about your role at EPIC?
CHAD: Sure. Thanks for having me. It is great to be here. My role at EPIC is I am one of the chairs for the case studies section of the conference.
This 2019 project conducted in the US and the UK sought to understand which conspiracy theories are harmful and which are benign, with an eye towards finding ways to combat disinformation and extremism. This case study demonstrates how ethnographic methods led to insights on what “triggered” conspiracy belief, the social and emotional roles conspiracy theories played in believers’ lives, and how conspiracy belief was often a reflection of a person's general sense of societal alienation. We discovered that any extreme version of a conspiracy theory could be harmful. The findings of this project changed how the client—and by extension engineers behind major tech platforms—understood harmful conspiracy-related content, and led to a refinement of the algorithms defining the discoverability of this content. The aim of this project was to scale and amplify through algorithmic interventions the work of individual debunkers.
Keywords: Conspiracy theories,...
University of Cambridge & SympTech Ltd
This case study explores the scaling experience of an early-stage healthtech startup company called myICUvoice. During the Covid-19 pandemic, myICUvoice rapidly scaled from a single intensive care environment to being widely used nationally (UK) as well as globally. We explore why and how so many volunteers were motivated to donate their time and expertise to help scale this early stage startup. Specifically, we examine the roles that empathy played throughout the scaling process. There are three distinct types of empathy that we have identified in our story: em-pathos, empathetic understanding, and mass-empathy. These each had a distinct role in driving the startup forward. Importantly, we note that human-centered design (which often focuses almost exclusively on achieving empathetic understanding) will immensely benefit from considering the multiple types, and multi-faceted...
REBECCA J HAZEN
Zillow is undergoing a major evolution, transitioning from serving as the world's largest digital marketplace for real estate advertising into an end-to-end platform to support customers across the phases of buying, selling, and renting homes. As Zillow expands into more transactional spaces, the company has recognized the need to develop a clear and actionable understanding of users and their experiences as they interact with our products and services. To address this need, we set out to establish an Experience Measurement program to provide organization-wide visibility into how well our Zillow experiences meet users’ needs and expectations as they progress through their real estate journey. This program will enable teams to gain insights at the intersection of attitudinal and behavioral experience data and lead us to our end goal of empowering informed decision-making across all levels of the experience and organization.
In this paper, we...
The case study presented is an in-depth view on the project “Casa nel Parco” (translated as “the House in the Park”), a three-year, European-funded project (ERDF Funds 2014-2020) in the Italian region of Piedmont that involves 4 hospitals, 2 large companies, 14 small-medium enterprises, 2 universities, and 2 private research centers. The goal is to research and innovate hospital-homecare services for elderly and ALS patients, as well as their caregivers, through the implementation of e-health solutions. The uniqueness of our case study lays on the fact that our ethnographic work was pivotal in shifting the narrative of closed hospital ecosystems (Goffman 1961); where those outside of the hospital environment are not viewed as credible or essential sources for improving the care system. In this...
International Business Machines Corporation, A Functional Democracy
International Business Machines Corporation, A Functional Democracy
In this case study we use ethnographic outcomes from the study of the employee population of IBM, to inform new experiences for improving civic engagement in the resident population of Austin, Texas. In doing so, we experiment with a technique in speculative ethnography that uses research insights from a variant population with a variant challenge for in-depth explorations of a possible future. We demonstrate, first, that while in speculative thinking big ideas can be imagined, transposing ethnography enables a richer exploration of possible futures, and thus, further depth in ideas. And second, that by combining speculative thinking with existing ethnography, researchers and design teams can unearth bold experiments and jump start a design process that drives quicker learnings and impact in new contexts.
Keywords: Culture Change, Speculative Design, Civic Engagement,...
Supporting communities on its platforms has been a part of Facebook's core mission since 2017. Early understandings of the needs of groups and organizers largely centered around groups that began on Facebook itself. This paper is the result of ethnographic research conducted in 2019 to better understand the needs of different types of groups and the corresponding ways that technology platforms do and could support them. The initial orientation towards online groups led to the recognition of the difficulty of managing fast-growing groups but failed to consider whether groups might want to avoid growth in members altogether. We found in our research that many groups in fact did want to avoid or limit their growth in numbers. For these groups, growing as a community meant different things: offering more to existing members, raising awareness, or promoting the group to an outside audience, or simply maintaining over time. Our research was able to connect the dots of why organizers...
Duo Security (formerly Indeed)
This case study explores how we personalized search results by turning ethnographic insights into taxonomic metadata, which in turn allowed us to use quantitative methods to assess business impact. The first part of the case study focuses on the problem we were trying to solve – creating better search results for nurses – and using ethnographic interviews to understand how nurses approached looking for jobs. The second part of the study dives more deeply into how metadata works, and why it was the perfect partner for capturing our ethnographic findings and making them into a scalable and measurable part of the design process. The third part of the study details how we tested and scaled our designs in the live project, and why we believe others might benefit from using a similar approach. Keywords: mental models, taxonomy, business impact.
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 177–188, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...
University of Technology Sydney
University of Technology Sydney
Effective software quality assurance in large-scale, complex software systems is one of the most vexed issues in software engineering, and, it is becoming ever more challenging. Software quality and its assurance is part of software development practice, a messy, complicated and constantly shifting human endeavor.
What emerged from our immersive study in a large Australian software development company is that software quality in practice is inextricably entangled with the phenomena of productivity, time, infrastructure and human practice. This ethnographic insight — made visible to the organization and its developers via the rich picture and the concept of entanglements — built their trust in our work and expertise. This led to us being invited to work with the software development teams on areas for change and improvement and moving to a participatory and leading role in organizational change.
Keywords: ethnography, entanglements,...
As a team of researchers was asked by a French home-improvement retailer to redefine their strategy, they designed and carried out an ethnographic and quantitative research to identify new business opportunities. But no sooner had they set foot in field, they were struck not only by the richness and complexity of such ordinary activities to the point they asked themselves if these practices were even measurable? Scaling from ethnography to quantitative research was not as seamless as they expected, they had to find their way to deal with two sets of data that belong to different scales if not ontological worlds. Are these two scales really strictly separated? Can't there be a way to combine them and to make them coincide? Based on the study of DIYing practices, this case study presents an attempt to integrate ethnographic and quantitative research and the challenge of resolving the scale differences between two methodologies. From turning DIYers into numbers and vice-versa, it explores the implications...
Challenging measures of scale is possible through listening to stories of how people value a product, and envisioning ways to measure success beyond typical metrics like Monthly Active Use (MAU) or Daily Active Use (DAU).
Understanding what people value is somewhat complex for a product like Firefox because people might use Firefox every day without thinking much about it. In this case study, we detail how we used Futures Thinking and participatory design methods to elicit stories of how people value Firefox.
This case study demonstrates that a relatively small number of meaningful ethnographic insights can be powerful enough to influence business strategy. By creating the space for listening to stories and encouraging stakeholder involvement, we were able to make the case to save one of our mobile browsers, Firefox Focus, despite its lack of scale.
Keywords: Diary Study, Firefox, Futures Thinking, Interviews, Mozilla, Participatory Design, Remote Research,...
This contribution is a case study of Spotify, a popular music streaming app, which uses automated recommendations to provide a better user experience to its listeners. Automated recommender systems have mostly been built around understanding user needs and user goals. Our case study presents a meaning-oriented approach aimed at understanding what users regard as meaningful and how an automated recommender system can forge meaning and offer experiences that help develop existing connections to music and generate new ones.
Following the meaning-oriented approach inspired by Lucien Karpik (2010), we were able to better understand how different audience segments engage with music and experience music as meaningful. We identified 2 cultural engagement models that listeners use to relate to music: (1) musical engagement during which music is the focus of the experience; and (2) non-musical engagement, during which the listener is the focus of the experience....
Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital
MASS Design Group
In April 2020, a study of The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City was conducted to better understand the challenge of adapting idealized infection control design guides to site-specific conditions during a pandemic. The study aimed to capture quick interventions that are working, offer a new hypothesis and framework to guide future design interventions, and share lessons to assist other medical facilities as they pursue their own necessary spatial adaptations moving forward. Three units repurposed for COVID-19 were studied. Using action cameras and cloud-based videoconferencing, clinicians helped designers remotely peer in real time to active COVID-19 units, create “heatmap” annotations of perceived risk by frontline clinicians, and conduct interviews with decision makers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged health care systems around the world to provide safe and effective care. Leveraging spatial design, architecture, and design...
The act of shopping for food is a very local experience, yet large food retail chains have built their business on homogenizing and standardizing the experience. In this article, we mobilize an ethnographic study carried out in 2018 for a food distributor regarding a new model of online retail pick-up. The goal of the project was to understand how a new method for food shopping could be scaled across different types of neighbourhoods. We created a scale model that incorporates both individual shopping practices and the demographics of the neighbourhood; using ethnographic methods as the basic unit. Using concepts from gentrification, we also contextualize our insights within the changing dynamics of a neighbourhood—because places are not static entities. We discuss how the scale model could be used to duplicate results from one neighbourhood to another and the reception of our work by the client.
Keywords: scale, retail, walking drive, gentrification
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp...
Social Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Agency and automation is explored through three case studies of the use of Cobots – collaborative robots – in three different auto production firms. The business challenges faced by these firms include labor shortages, quality control and reduction of waste. The Cobot solution resulted in different effects on agency through (1) agency task displacement, (2) agency enhancement and (3) agency expansion. In addition, the individual characteristics of the workplace structure also mediated the effects of Cobots on agency. In the first case (Uno Motors) Fordist technology and the presence of a union ensured that Cobots were deployed instrumentally. The second case (Duo Global Technologies) was one in which Cobots were flexibly deployed to meet changing production demands. The third case (Trio) went furthest in integrating Cobots into the production process as co-workers requiring new workplace relationships together with the potential...