fiction

Screenplay, Novel, and Poem: The Value of Borrowing From Three Literary Genres to Frame Our Thinking as We Gather, Analyze, and Elevate Data in Applied Ethnographic Work

MARIA CURY ReD Associates MICHELE CHANG-MCGRATH ReD Associates Applied ethnography still struggles with the fundamental challenges of (1) framing research to obtain ‘thick’ data, (2) making sense of data in teams and with clients, and (3) making a convincing case with data in challenging environments. We have observed that borrowing from literary genres can be effective in addressing these challenges. We therefore argue that in an age of data science, it is just as important to draw from the literary arts when gathering, analyzing, and elevating evidence to inspire change in applied ethnographic work. We raise three specific applications of literary genres to distinct project phases, to improve how data is collected and analyzed, and how data travels. In this paper we show: (1) how the screenplay can help solve challenges in research framing, to obtain thicker data; (2) how the novel can help solve challenges in analysis, to turn data into meaningful evidence; (3) how poetry can help solve challenges in the opportunities-development...

The Future of User Research: To Thine Users Be True (even when they don’t need you)

by APALA LAHIRI CHAVAN, Human Factors International Sibongile sighed and put her pen and journal down. Today was May 20, 2050. Was she just a nostalgic second cycler—facing another lifetime in the age of 150-year-olds? It was her 70th birthday and her brood of children, grandchildren, partner and ex-partners were all going to be hologramed in from across the world. Her partner worked on Google’s Project Infinity, a project so very confidential that she hadn’t heard from him in a year. Would he make contact today? She had made sure when upgrading her hologram delivery service that it took into account the possibility that Dingane could be orbiting in space while holograming! She looked wistfully at her pen and paper journal. Completely obsolete now. She had, thanks to her foresight way back in 2016, hoarded a bunch of special pens and paper. But she had to be very, very careful about not showing them to anyone, not even her family. If anyone saw her using these, she would be termed an ‘archaic’ by the USO (USER segmentation...

Auto Ethnography

by FIONA MOORE, Royal Holloway, University of London “Where is Hassan?” I asked the assembled team of programmers. “And please don’t tell me he’s on the track, running with the automobiles?” Rose tossed her blonde hair and rolled her eyes like the sorority girl she otherwise completely failed to resemble. “OK, but that’s only because he’s down in the garage in his sleeping bag, recharging with the automobiles.” “You really should do something about that, Professor Leibowitz.” That’s Ruth, incisive and sharp, perched on the edge of her wire-frame office chair, chin resting on her hand, fixing me with her birdlike eyes. “Why should he?” Ay shifted his slightly-too-tall frame. “We’re in completely uncharted territory here with these cars. I say, if unorthodox methods work, then use them.” “Mind elaborating, Atticus?” I said, just to see the tension manifest in a tiny quirk at the corner of his mouth. No, he couldn’t help what his parents named him, but I could never quite resist...

Enriching Ethnography in Marginalized Communities with Surrealist Techniques

ANDREA JUDICE Núcleo de Multimídia e Internet, University of Brasilia, Brazil MARCELO JUDICE Núcleo de Multimídia e Internet, University of Brasilia, Brazil ILPO KOSKINEN School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong This paper describes two projects, Vila Rosario and Vila Mimosa, two pieces of ethnographic research that aimed at improving public health in poor corners of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The research sought to improve public health in these two marginalized communities in Rio de Janeiro. The main objective of the paper is to explain how Surrealist techniques can be applied to enrich ethnographic fieldwork. The broader question of the paper is the tension between these imaginative techniques work with fieldwork, a tension that goes back to the disciplinary differences between design and the social sciences....

Satin Island: An Appreciation

by ALEXANDRA MACK, Pitney Bowes I will admit that as soon as I heard there was a newly published novel about a corporate anthropologist, I took the bait and grabbed a copy (metaphorically, of course, given that I in fact downloaded an e-book). How would my world and my work be represented in fiction? What truths or myths might be relayed to the reading public? And fundamentally, would I find it an enjoyable read? As I started this beautifully written book by Tom McCarthy, I realized I had to shift my expectations, and in so doing found many truths, not so much about the work we do but about the world and our existence as 21st century humans, truths that are appropriately more literary than anthropological. While the book on its surface appears to be an extended representation of corporate anthropology, presenting a unique public view on our field, at its core the book is really not about corporate anthropology or even really a corporate anthropologist. McCarthy does however have enough of an understanding of anthropology to use the...