by DINA MEHTA & STUART HENSHALL, Convo
Ethnographic context helps people see alternate possibilities and situations where decisions may play out—and create better futures.
The future, of course, is inherently unpredictable. As the EPIC2021 theme Anticipation begins, “There are no future facts. Yet we humans constantly create potential futures.”
People create futures when they begin to see alternate possibilities and situations where their decisions—and those of others—may play out. This creates choices and potential options, while also identifying risks, implications of operating in a different world, and new areas for research and exploration. To do this, organizations need to be able to learn about the world “out there,” as well as understand and shift their own positioning within it.
How can ethnographers facilitate this quest to anticipate the future? Our work has focused on the organizational change needed for our clients to see and create new potentials. As ethnographers we bring stories into the organization,...
by STUART HENSHALL, Convo
Some time ago I watched an older Indian woman using Google Assistant to access recipes. She expressed how thrilled she was: her family would be eating new meals and they would appreciate her more. As I looked more closely, it was obvious the cooking instruction video (in Hindi) contained no text. (Makes sense, she doesn’t need it.)
There are probably millions of recipes like this, many of them not professionally produced. In time, this woman herself may even become a creator of recipes and videos, despite not being able to write. She bypasses text for entertainment and learning, bringing her great joy and a new sense of independence. This is a significant change: previously, sharing recipes across time and space required writing, and less literate users avoided doing anything much more with their phones than calling. Now, voice and video technology is catalyzing new forms of engagement with a wider world.
More recently, I was watching a group of TikTok creators talk about TikTok, a social media video...
by APARNA RAY, DINA MEHTA & STUART HENSHALL, Convo
We find our clients constantly look for deeper meaning and nuanced user insights to help them innovate, stay ahead and rise to the challenges of business. At the same time, cross-functional teams within the organization want research to throw light on their focal paths. Add to this the ever-increasing role of technology and digitization in the lives of users, real-time play and social media engagement, and you have a heady mix that calls for new approaches and tools for ethnographic research.
“The relations between social life and its analysis are changing in the context of digitization… the means by which social life is performed and the devices through which it is recorded, observed and interpreted are increasingly the same or similar. Among many other things, this makes possible different ways of deploying social technologies in social and cultural research.” (Noortje Marres, What is Digital Sociology? CISP Online, 21 January 2013)
Over the last few years, we...