EPIC

Luis Arnal / A Profile

EPIC Profiles Series by FERNANDO GALINDO, Tellus Institute "Innovation Lives at the Borders" Luis could talk forever about his passion for INSITUM. He doesn’t like to showcase himself as the company’s front man, but in fact, he leads one of the most important innovation consultancies in the world, with over 120 consultants, 7 offices and more than 1400 projects. INSITUM was recently featured by Fast Company magazine as the 4th most innovative company in Latin America for “being global brands’ Latin American translator.” Self-described as introverted, obsessive, and fearless, Luis spends most of his time thinking about other people, not himself. This, he acknowledges, “is what happens when you practice ethnography for so many years—there is a point when you can’t turn it off. I think I feed from trying to understand others, becoming a sponge for feelings, knowledge and stories.” We all have that first spark that set us on a career path. For Luis, the son of an academic researcher, it was the stimulating architecture...

EPIC is Our Community

Maria Bezaitis, EPIC Board President I entered the field of applied ethnography in the mid-90s. For me the point was never about practicing my academic training, or having a career that academia couldn’t provide. The point was always about who I got to work with and the dynamism we experienced doing the work because we…

ken anderson / A Profile

ken anderson
EPIC Profiles Series by MIKE KIPPENHAN [based on an interview with ken at the Intel Jones Farm Campus, Hillsboro, Oregon, August 25, 2014] “Nobody liked them. No sense of humor.” These days ken anderson may not talk much about the French ethnographers he interacted with in Portugal’s Azores—or about his dissertation research at all—but when he does, his observations are acute. ken, now an ethnographer in Intel’s Cultural Transformations Lab and an EPIC board member, had an unusual approach to the work on that trip. “We were just laughing at everything because we didn’t understand what they were saying,” he said. “We thought laughing was a good thing to do.” Turns out, he was right. Now ken is situated in a different host culture—Intel. He believes it took him over a year to fully appreciate how the company operated. He had worked for high tech companies previously, and naturally viewed his new employer through a similar lens. When it finally sank in that Intel was a manufacturing company in the high...

Maria Bezaitis / A Profile

EPIC Profiles Series by AMINA BENHIMA, Swinburne University A PhD in French Literature and Cultural Studies from Duke University (1988-1994), Maria Bezaitis may appear to have a surprising career as a scientist inside Intel’s Interaction and Experience Lab. But as she says, her vast literary studies exploring modernist literary movements in the context of new technological developments, ultimately led her into such a field of work. Bezaitis felt she had learned about “the changing nature of everyday life” and it was this focus that forged her interesting career. Of immigrant parents to the USA, Bezaitis mentions that her background possibly contributed to a core tension that created a sense of “always being on the outside or at the margins”. This fluent speaker in French and Greek as well as English drew her academic attention to language and “writing, writing and writing”. Bezaitis came to see language as crucially important to all endeavours. Language for her was the preferred methodology “to work out problems,...

The EPIC 2014 Conversation

MARIA BEZAITIS, ALEXANDRA MACK and KEN ANDERSON From September 7 through 10, EPIC convened in New York City at Fordham University’s Manhattan campus. This year’s conference was hosted by Fordham’s Center For Positive Marketing, a fact that encouraged a conference emphasis on value and values. Our organizing team, led by Tim de Waal Malefyt and Rogério de Paula, brought four keynote talks into the main conference program this year, giving the EPIC community a chance to hear from culture critic Thomas Frank, industry practitioners Christian Madsbjerg (ReD Associates) and Kate Crawford (Microsoft Research), and Professor Dawn Lerman (Executive Director, Center for Positive Marketing and Senior Associate Dean of Research and Academic Innovation, Fordham University). Every year, the EPIC community introduces important new elements and innovations to the conference. Brigitte Jordan created the Authors’ Space, which highlighted new publications by EPIC people and gave the community a chance to interact with authors. Students from...

Accounting for Value Salon at EPIC2014

by SIMON ROBERTS, Stripe Partners and RITA DENNY, Practica Group What's our worth? What are the rhetorics of value? This question is never far from the minds of individual practitioners and this diverse community. Value takes many forms and is denominated in many currencies. The worth of these currencies changes in time and space as business environments change, and in response to changes our own practices in and with organizations. So how do and should we talk about ourselves now into the future? In putting together this Salon, Rita and I were conscious that we were taking on tensions that sit at the heart of the EPIC world. These are tensions and questions that have arisen at every EPIC over the last 10 years. And likely for the next ten years too. Thirty diverse and brave folks attended the Salon at Fordham. They helped us think about accounting for our value. [With Chatham House rules in effect, people spoke freely!] 1. “Accounting” is retrospective justification! Attendees contested our muse from the outset:...

What were the suggested readings for Epistemology/Reductionism Salon at EPIC2014?

List of suggested readings from Neal Patel Fricke, Tom E. 2003 “Culture and Causality: An Anthropological Comment.” Population and Development Review, 29(3): 470-479. Madsbjerg, Christian and Mikkel B. Rasmussen 2014  “An Anthropologist Walks into a Bar . . .” Harvard Business Review, March. (Available at: http://faculty.elgin.edu/mhealy/HBRAnthropology.pdf) Shea, Jeanne L. 2003 “Setting the Anthropological Record Straight: Critique…

You Can’t Be Serious?! – LEGO® Serious Play® – Serious Solution Crafting for Kids aged 3 to 103.

by DORTE TOLLNER and CORI MOORE EPIC2014 Workshop: You Can’t Be Serious?! – LEGO® Serious Play® - Serious Solution Crafting for Kids aged 3 to 103. Well the excitement of last week has taken its toll – or perhaps that’s just the jet lag. Now back in Berlin, I’m reminiscing our epic week, uploading pictures and re-reading scribbled notes – it’ll no doubt take me a lot longer to absorb it all. I’d like to thank all of those who made it to my LEGO® Serious Play® Workshop on Sunday. I had the pleasure of welcoming ethnographers, anthropologists, designers and researchers from India to Adelaide to exchange ideas in the form of those little colorful bricks we all loved so much as kids. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP) is one of our favorite hands-on methodologies, designed to stimulate and empower participants to use haptic thinking for inspirational problem solving. Developed as an in-house strategy tool in the nineties, LSP builds upon an inclusive and participatory...

Studying In and Studying Out

by ELIZABETH BROIDY and KEN ERICKSON An EPIC 2014 Workshop: Studying In and Studying Out: Linking Organizational and Consumer Ethnography The big idea here is this. Most anthropologists are working either in the organizational space or in the consumer space and no one is looking at the interface between these two cultural domains. Sharing what we have learned after years of practice in organizations and for consumer product and services companies, Erickson and Briody engaged workshop participants in sharing tips for bringing an understanding of organizations into so-called consumer research, and vice-versa. We told some stories, some tales of the field that pointed to difficulties within organizations that inhibited their ability to respond to consumer needs or to bridge the internal silos that limit the effectiveness of organizations in doing their work. The fun part was finding how much the participants shared. We found a range of tips and tricks for learning about the organization--internal clients if you work “inside”...

Badges, Branding and Business Growth: The ROI of an Ethnographic Praxis Professional Certification

PATRICIA ENSWORTH Renewal is not just about natural cycles of waxing and waning: sometimes it means a leap forward. The progress of ethnographic praxis in industry has been a gradual but steady evolution. Yet recent economic events and academic trends suggest that the moment has arrived for ethnographers to expand our influence by codifying our practices. This paper proposes the establishment of an Ethnographic Praxis Professional (EPP) certification based upon an Ethnographic Body of Knowledge (EBOK). A professional credential and an authoritative repository of shared concepts and methods would benefit clients, employers, professors, students – and most of all ourselves as practitioners....

The EPIC 2012 Conversation

MELISSA CEFKIN, MARIA BEZAITIS, ALEXANDRA MACK, KEN ANDERSON and ED LIEBOW When we offer something to another person, community, or organization, we create the conditions for some sort of value to be created. This proposition about value creation remains at the heart of all ethnographic work in industry, and it has framed EPIC’s exploration of Renewal, the theme set for this year’s conference in Savannah. What does it mean to do something that is valued? How is that value organized and shaped in everyday life, in the workplace, in ethnographic practice itself, from methodologies to questions of ethics? As a broad and diverse community of practitioners, is there such a thing as “our” value? Should “we” expect ever to standardize it in those terms? These were just some of the provocative questions raised by the content shared at EPIC 2012. Indeed, both the opening and closing keynotes demonstrated this complicated dance of renewal and value creation in very personal and specific ways. Architect Emily Pilloton opened this year’s...

The ‘Inner Game’ of Ethnography

STOKES JONES Ethnography’s external outputs such as contextual photos, process models, and personas have overshadowed the actual ‘way’ of practicing ethnography (which has remained largely immune to normative standards). This paper will argue the time has come to re-embrace a sense of craft and that renewal can be catalyzed by putting individual performance at the center of ethnographic practice. Beginning from practitioners’ typical feelings of discontent with the lost potential inherent in most ethnographic encounters, this paper will look for the embodied foundations of a more disciplined way forward. Drawing on awareness techniques from the human potential movement, (that have themselves been adapted to concentration-intensive sports like tennis) this paper proposes a turn towards the ‘inner game’ of ethnography. As this leads practitioners to tighten norms on today’s unseen ethnographic practices, it can end the double-game between inner and outer standards and increase the discipline’s authority....