Little Dramas Everywhere: Using Ethnography to Anticipate the Future

J.A. ENGLISH-LUECK San Jose State University SAM LADNER Workday, Inc. JAMIE SHERMAN Netflix Inc. In this article, the chairs of EPIC2021 reflect on the idea of Anticipation, and what ethnography reveals to us that may not be readily apparent through other means. Looking backward at the year of planning a conference that was to be focused on the future, the authors describe various revelations that unfolded and revealed themselves over the course of time. They raise questions of method, of epistemological position, and ethical responsibility. The authors conclude that anticipation is very much an ethnographic activity, one in which we can ask difficult questions about power and practice. Article citation: 2021 EPIC Proceedings pp 7–14, ISSN 1559-8918,

Tutorial: Designing Ethnofutures Research Projects

Designing Ethnofutures Research Projects
Instructors: ROD FALCON, (Director, Technology Futures Lab, Institute for the Future), LYN JEFFERY (Director, IFTF Foresight Essentials) & VANESSA MASON (Research Director, Institute for the Future) Learn how to design ethnofutures research projects and expand the time horizons of your work. Overview This tutorial was conducted at EPIC2021. Exercises and discussions have been omitted to protect the privacy of participants. How do you take ethnographic data from today and turn it into futures forecasts, scenarios, personas, and stories about how the world could be different in ten years? How do you define a “futures” research domain, develop an ethnofutures interview process, and scope the right people to interview? And once you have your data, how do you use it to develop an informed, provocative view of the long-term future? Researchers leaders from the Institute for the Future (IFTF), a 50+ year nonprofit futures research group, will unpack the structure of an ethnofutures project, which translates ethnographic...

Tutorial: Calibrating Ethnofutures

J.A. ENGLISH-LUECK San Jose State University ROD FALCON Institute for the Future ANDREW MARLEY San Jose State University Overview This tutorial introduces Ethnofutures to ethnographers who want to integrate forecasting methods and tools into their current professional practices. The goal is to translate ethnographic material into imaginative, but grounded, scenarios of their future users, services, and products. Practitioners, such as designers and business strategists, must imagine futures based on existing signals of change. Those signals can come from the activities of individuals, the organizations in which they work, as well as the larger social events around them. The forces fomenting change can be highly localized, such as a specific municipal policy on gig workers or also be global in scope, pointing to the role of gig work as a facet of contemporary transnational capitalism. Moreover, the future itself is scalable: Organizations toggle between data-rich forecasts that extend less than a year, to more speculative...

Speculative Futures inside Corporate Realities

BEN KUESTER Allstate MEGAN PRESCOTT Allstate The auto insurance industry is being disrupted by insurtechs that are leveraging data and technology to solve pain points in parts of the customer journey, while emerging technology in adjacent industries threatens insurance as it currently exists. As a result, insurance companies are imagining futures beyond traditional insurance and new ways that they might meet the needs of future customers. In order to explore what a reframing of insurance as “protection” could mean to customers, we utilized ethnographic methods and speculative design practices to reimagine how the transition from non-driver to young driver and from dependent child to independent adult could be more fully supported by an insurance company. In this case study, we review both the methodological processes and summarize learnings and opportunities critical to applying ethnofutures and speculative design practices within a large corporate setting, including: proposing a new approach to a diverse group of stakeholders;...