disaster

Strategy without Ethnography

by ZACH HYMAN, Continuum Thomas Hobbes famously warned that the worst instincts of “mankind” need strict management, control, and regulation. But what about the harm that results when we try to manage spontaneous systems too closely? I have been thinking with Robert Chia and Robin Holt lately; their book Strategy without Design is on my desk, and I’m nearly finished with their detailed accounts of how inflexible and myopic our planning and strategy can be. We’ve developed rigid and inflexible fields and disciplines, which have lead to similarly inelastic outputs. History is rife with examples of failed attempts to plan, manage, and control. The news these days is rife with them too—the misplaced ambitions of those who hope to design on a massive scale for a complex group of users. Take, for example, high priests of modernity such as Le Corbusier, whose Plan Voisin imagined the transformation Paris into “a chequerboard latticework of well-spaced towers and open, orthogonal roads” (Chia & Holt 36). His success...

Service Designing the City

NATALIA RADYWYL From cataclysmic recessions to unprecedented climate disasters, our cities seem awash with unintended consequences borne of complex times. While city administrations grapple with developing systemic supports, our infrastructure, communities and individual wellbeing are increasingly succumbing to the strain. This paper examines a practice gaining recent traction for improving our cities’ sustainable resilience: service design. As an inherently user-centered, reflexive and iterative practice, it develops service systems by drawing upon a range of disciplinary roles - from makers to strategists, and ethnographers to technologists. I examine three New York City-based case studies which each attempt to improve the services its residents use and need. While responding to the complex needs of the same city, these case studies illustrate the vastly different possibilities for improving broken civic services through institutional intervention: housing in civic service design, mobility in private sector service design,...

What Research Enables: Ethnography by High-school Students Catalyzing Transformation of a Post-tsunami Community

FUMIKO ICHIKAWA, HIROSHI TAMURA and YOKO AKAMA We are beginning to witness a broadening of the contribution, positioning and purpose of ethnography in industry, catalysed by questioning what it can enable for communities and societies. By going beyond boundaries and disjuncture of corporate forms and viewing it within an entangled fields of economics, culture and society, this paper discuss how we become aware of what we do, and to enable others to make sense of the transformations that are occurring around them and within them, and how can we all participate in that process of being and becoming. In doing so, we question how to self-reflexively explore how we, as ethnographers, can be empowered to embark on such endeavours....