EPIC2016

EPIC2016 Proceedings & Video

The leading online collection of peer-reviewed work on ethnography in business just got bigger! We’ve added 32 articles and 57 videos from EPIC2016—now you can access over 350 free articles. Here’s how: Search (full text), read, download, and share individual articles HERE. Access is FREE—please sign in or create a free account. Download the entire…

Pathmaking, Bushwhacking—Wisdom from EPIC2016

In the weeks following EPIC2016 our community has been reflecting on the inspiring presentations we heard, building on the new connections we made, and incorporating the exciting ideas and techniques we learned about into our work. (Some of us are also working off the fried-everything-on-a-stick Minnesota State Fair extravaganza.) If you participated, but especially if you didn't, don't miss these round-ups: 1. Reve Consulting offers Seven Takeaways from EPIC2016, from moving quickly while providing value, to using our everyday work as a vehicle for social change. We agree with Reve that the EPIC2016 prize for "what you didn't know you needed to know" goes to Adina Daar: "Knowing about how meerkats learn to eat scorpions by starting with dead ones helped her learn how to facilitate focus groups." 2. Are you blue in the face trying to explain the value of "the kind of in-depth research that doesn’t easily lead to a full database of numbers or series of elegant charts"? In his Star Tribune article "In the Age of Data,...

Our Collective Project of Change

EPIC2016 at the University of Minnesota was wonderful for all sorts of reasons—in particular, the hard work of our fabulous organizing team and the fact that our community is more diverse than ever. EPIC People are practitioners in technology, consumer product, work process and healthcare, working in industry as well as consulting. With backgrounds ranging from…

“Culture Matters More than We Think”: Eric Weiner / A Profile

EPIC Profiles Series by TAMARA HALE, Effective UI EPIC2016 Keynote Speaker Eric Weiner is a veteran foreign correspondent and New York Times best selling author. Join Eric at EPIC2016! In an interconnected, technology-driven world, does culture still matter? Can there really be “best practices” to be drawn from the vast range of human experiences? These are some of the questions driving Eric Weiner’s influential writing and thinking. I spoke with Eric about his career trajectory and the inspiration he has drawn from the discipline of anthropology. His award-winning journalism and critically acclaimed books, The Geography of Bliss, Man Seeks God and The Geography of Genius all use cross-cultural and historical comparison as a strategy to make key concepts intriguing for the general public. After writing his first two books, explains Eric, “I realized that I’ve really been engaging in amateur cultural anthropology.... I believe that culture matters more than we think.” Eric’s interest in culture, his deep appreciation...

Why EPIC Needs Ethical Guidelines and Why You Should Care

by KATHY BAXTER, SalesForce "The line between good and evil is permeable and almost anyone can be induced to cross it when pressured by situational forces." —Phil Zimbardo No one reading this article conducts research with the intent to cause harm to others. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would—research is more regulated now, and those egregious stories of unethical work are a thing of the past, right? In fact, unethical research happens today despite protections that have been put in place to protect participants, and even despite researchers’ good intentions. The classic example is Phil Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo had the noble goal of understanding why good people do evil things, but his study had to be stopped after six days because it was causing good people to do evil things. How do well intentioned researchers end up conducting studies that seem so obviously unethical? What Is Ethical? If researchers can be unethical despite their best intentions, how can we understand what being ethical...

Working for Social Change

by CHUCK DARRAH, San Jose State University Chuck Darrah and Jeanette Blomberg are Host and Discussan of the EPIC2016 Salon Working for Social Change. Join them at EPIC2016! No matter the source of your employment, whether in the commercial sector or academia, we all want our work lives to add up to something positive. Yet it is easy to wonder how this or that project actually affected the world for better or worse. What can we do to make the next project better? How can we take what we learned so we can repeat the success in other projects or settings? Jeanette Blomberg and I have been engaged in an extended conversation with each other for over a decade about the relationship between our day jobs and our interest in promoting social change. The EPIC2016 Salon Working for Social Change is a chance for our community to reflect on the complexities of making the world a better place through our labor as EPIC practitioners and academics, both individually and collectively. Jeanette has spent a career working primarily in the...

“Ethnography is Fundamental”: John F Sherry, Jr / A Profile

john f sherry jr
EPIC Profiles Series by PAUL OTTO EPIC2016 Keynote Speaker John F. Sherry is the Raymond W. & Kenneth G. Herrick Professor of Marketing in the Mendoza College of Business and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Join John at EPIC2016! I caught up with Dr. John F. Sherry, joint professor in Marketing and Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, in late spring, right after exams. John has had a prolific career in ethnography as a practitioner and theorist, with 10 books, over 100 articles, and numerous consulting engagements to his name. He is a collaborative scholar, and quick to point out others’ influence on his work—Sidney Levy, Joel Cohen, William Wilkie, H. Russell Bernard, Marvin Harris, and more. In addition to his work on brand strategy and consumer behavior (among his many distinctions, John is past president of the Consumer Culture Theory Consortium), John has had “a long term investment in placeways—retail, atmospherics, that kind of thing,” which he says resonates with...

Ethnographer on Wall Street: Karen Ho / A Profile

EPIC Profiles Series by RACHEL C. FLEMING, University of Colorado at Boulder EPIC2016 Keynote Speaker Karen Ho is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and author of the widely acclaimed book Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street based on three years of fieldwork among investment bankers and major financial institutions. Join Karen at EPIC2016! What do sentiments and ideologies have to do with Wall Street? Karen Ho would argue they are key for understanding and changing Wall Street’s institutional culture that generates and justifies a focus on the short-term. From working in a firm to interviewing workers and studying corporate publications, Karen’s insights into how particular mindsets come to dominate corporations or whole industries—in this case, the culture of liquidity—can help us transition from a culture of shortsightedness to one of creating long-term value. Karen did not originally aspire to become an anthropologist, but her upbringing shaped her anthropological...

William O. Beeman / A Profile

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EPIC Profiles Series by FRANCESCA SWAINE, University of Minneapolis Strike up a conversation with EPIC2016 Conference Chair Bill Beeman and you might be treated to his deep expertise in Iranian politics or pragmatic philosophy...or theater and art history, or smart service systems in product design. He truly is a Renaissance man. Trained as a linguistic anthropologist at Wesleyan University and the University of Chicago, Bill is a distinguished anthropologist, renowned author, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, opera singer, actor, and consultant to industry. A pioneer in establishing the value of ethnography in Industry, he forged a partnership between the Department of Anthropology and the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, co-hosts of EPIC2016. Pathmaking Ethnography for Transformative Innovation Bill’s masterful orchestration of art, science and industry are embodied in the conference theme pathmaking. His commitment to pathmaking is based on...

Light Dancing with Ideas: A Joyful Manifesto for Creating EPIC PechaKuchas

by ARVIND VENKATARAMANI, EPIC2016 PechaKucha Panel Lead Even in a heterodox community such as EPIC, ‘Papers’ can feel like a forbidding mechanism for generating knowledge and exchanging ideas. To those not accustomed to, or comfortable with, thinking verbally (and verbosely) EPIC Papers are an odd ‘Other’, and almost never experienced directly. Sometimes you just need to say things simply, quickly. This is why I love PechaKucha at EPIC. We’re all interesting people, but we don’t all speak the same way. Some of us do smarts without the words. PechaKuchas aren’t Papers-lite; they’re light dancing with ideas. Less a dressy formal waltz, more a bhangra – improvised, welcoming, perhaps even a little unrefined. But, hey, bhangra is fun, right? I want to show you how PechaKuchas work here in EPIC. And how they are actually much easier to put together than you might think. I hope that encourages you to dig a bit into your own experiences, and find things to share. If you haven’t cottoned on already, this is a PechaKucha...

Organizational Culture and Change

bertknot-escher via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
by KATE SIECK (RAND Corporation) & LAURA A. MCNAMARA (Sandia National Laboratories); EPIC2016 Paper Committee - Ethnography/Organizations & Change Curators Praxis is the bringing-to-life of a theory or philosophical position. It is the practical application of lessons learned through study and reflection. It is not simply what you do, it’s why you do it. Thus as the organization that specializes in ethnographic praxis in industry, we are the translators of ethnographic theory into action when applied to organizations and their cultures. As the discipline which specializes in the nuanced and contextual understanding of culture, ethnography offers a much-needed voice in these discussions. However, organizational science has tended to be dominated by industrial/organizational psychology, business management research, sociology and economics. In the resulting literature, ethnographic methods are often lumped into the category of “qualitative organizational research,” subsuming organizational anthropology to the more established...

Renewing the Corporate Social Responsibility Agenda: What Is in the Corporate Toolkit for Social Change?

by ED LIEBOW, American Anthropological Association & EMILIE HITCH, Rabbit; EPIC2016 Papers Committee, Ethnography/CSR Curators Business interests often claim that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is ‘the right thing to do’ and that acting responsibly is ‘good for business.’ Multinational firms have come together to create international conventions and business associations that establish and abide by audit standards for fair wages, safe working conditions, and they support the development and maintenance of public facilities and services necessitated by the additional local demands created by local operations. Out of an enlightened sense of self-interest, small and medium-size enterprises may also look out for their employees and suppliers, invest in their communities, protect the environment, and pave the way for a sustainable future. Yet many skeptics place firms’ CSR activities in a broader historical and cultural context, and argue that these firms have prospered greatly in lax compliance regimes, where they...

Urban Mobility and “Emerging Consumers”

by LAURA SCHEIBER, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais and EPIC2016 Papers Committee, Ethnography/Emerging Consumers Curator For several decades ‘Emerging’ has been a staple prefix applied to such entities as markets, nations, democracies, cultures, and business opportunities. The term has been used to label virtually anything about “less-developed” Others deemed “new” to the world of market-led consumption, especially by corporate actors looking for new markets and consumers worldwide. Work in this area ranges from bottom-up players in the repair ecology of ICT businesses in a place like Dharavi, Mumbai, to top-down initiatives like Facebook’s internet.org, aiming to provide basic internet (framed as a human right) to disadvantaged citizens around the world. It explores topics as disparate as the dynamic worlds of micro-entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises; the desires of aspirational middle income groups in emerging contexts; or the strategies of actors near ‘the poverty line’,...

Making the Case for Cases, Part 1: EPIC Case Studies 101

by SIMON ROBERTS (Stripe Partners), GARY GEBHARDT (HEC Montréal) & MARK BERGEN (Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota), EPIC2016 Program Committee – Case Studies There’s a new format for EPIC2016: Case Studies. This post (and its companion Part 2) explains what we mean by cases, and what we are launching this format to achieve. Case studies in some form are not new to EPIC. Each year many presentations – be they full Papers or PechaKuchas – have taken the shape of loose case studies. But giving Case Studies a space of their own, with their own submission criteria, will lead to stronger case studies we believe. It will also encourage people to think more deeply about the relationship between ethnography and business impact, how EPIC can best fulfill its role in describing & documenting this impact, and how we can share it with audiences beyond the EPIC community. What We Mean by Case Studies Our vision for case studies is a method for teaching others about how ethnographic methods can be used to...

Making the Case for Cases, Part 2: Pathmaking

by SIMON ROBERTS (Stripe Partners), GARY GEBHARDT (HEC Montréal) & MARK BERGEN (Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota), EPIC2016 Program Committee – Case Studies (This post follows Making the Case for Cases, Part 1) Unlike the research stories shared in the past, making a dedicated space for Case Studies at EPIC signals it’s time for us to evolve cases as a genre. Summarizing last year’s conference, the EPIC Board writes: ...reflecting on the first 10 Years of EPIC, Jeannette Blomberg asked for fewer “just-so stories and more accounts of what is broken and what we can learn from it”—a reminder that while it is nice to celebrate our successes and tell interesting narrative case studies, we only push our practice and knowledge forward by dissecting that which fails and that which we do not understand. (The EPIC2015 Conversation) Indeed, even the best EPIC cases have sometimes come across as straightforward histories of inestimable success. We understand few people come to conferences motivated to...