future

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, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...

We Have Always Dreamed of (Afro)futures: Notes beyond the Dark Fantastic

We Have Always Dreamed of (Afro)futures
Keynote Speaker: EBONY THOMAS, University of Michigan Ebony Elizabeth Thomas is Associate Professor in Educational Studies at the University of Michigan. She studies how people of color are portrayed, or not portrayed, in children’s and young adult literature, and how those portrayals shape our culture. As children’s and young adult literary empires continue to dominate publishing and Hollywood, she strongly believes that the field has the potential to become one of the most effective postcolonial, critical, and activist projects of all. A former Detroit Public Schools teacher and National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Thomas was a member of the NCTE Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color’s 2008–2010 cohort, served on the NCTE Conference on English Education's Executive Committee from 2013 until 2017, and is the immediate past chair of the NCTE Standing Committee on Research. She is co-editor of Research in the Teaching of English, and her most recent book is The Dark Fantastic:...

Building Target Worlds: Connecting Research, Futures Exploration and Worldbuilding

MARKUS ROTHMÜLLER Bridgemaker GmbH “The future” cannot be “predicted,” but “preferred futures” can and should be envisioned, invented, implemented, continuously evaluated, revised, and re-envisioned. —Jim Dator, Hawaii, 1995 This paper introduces a framework called Target Worlds, with which I hope to offer an alternative to putting users, personas or target groups at the center of innovation. Instead I want to promote a more prudent approach that balances social, environmental, technological and financial sustainability in innovation.Target Worlds thereby tries to overcome issues of focus, scalability and responsibility in innovation by tackling the core of the problem: the targets of innovation work. The framework merges concepts of investigating ‘worlds’ today, identifying desirable futures for tomorrow and worldbuilding as a hands-on approach resulting in target worlds as new point of departure for innovation teams. This paper serves as a recipe for building target worlds offering a step-by-step guide...

Tutorial: Using Analogs to Research the Unknown

Tutorial - Using Analogs to Research the Unknown
Instructor: JO AIKEN, Google Learn strategies to design research of inaccessible or future environments. Overview This tutorial was conducted at EPIC2021. Exercises and discussions have been omitted to protect the privacy of participants. Ethnographers seek insights by studying people in their natural environments. What if the thing you are designing will not be used for 20–40 years from now? What if the natural context is inaccessible—an infrequent event, a dangerous environment, an exclusive space? How do you understand environments and users that do not yet exist? This tutorial breaks down the complexity of conducting ethnographic research of environments that are unknown or inaccessible. Using real NASA case studies, Jo will walk you through frameworks and methods, such as analogs and scenario testing, for conducting practical research when you can’t get to the “real” field site. This interactive tutorial will include a combination of presented content, small-group activities, and discussion. Participants...

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...

Facing the Future in Product Development: Prediction and Uncertainty in Decision Making

flower heads with sky in the background
Prediction can create a false sense of certainty – at great cost. Can uncertainty establish a more effective foundation for product development? by HELI RANTAVUO, Spotify Foresight. Tends. Megatrends. Forecasting. Speculative design. Predictive modelling. Impact estimating. These are some of the established methods that researchers and analysts use in trying to understand what the future might look like, and how the organisations we work for and with approach the future. A variety of research and design techniques are available for us to make sense of the future in a structured way. Ethnographers and anthropologists know how to study the present in order to speculate on the future; design teams employ futurecasts and speculative design; futures research employs a wide range of methods that cut across disciplines. With the availability of big data, forecasting and predictive modelling is growing more and more sophisticated. Sometimes I wonder, does the maturity of our methods and frameworks make us feel too confident about...

Ethnographers Don’t Create Futures, People Do: Ethnographic Context and Facilitating Better Futures

by DINA MEHTA & STUART HENSHALL, Convo Ethnographic context helps people see alternate possibilities and situations where decisions may play out—and create better futures. The future, of course, is inherently unpredictable. As the EPIC2021 theme Anticipation begins, “There are no future facts. Yet we humans constantly create potential futures.” People create futures when they begin to see alternate possibilities and situations where their decisions—and those of others—may play out. This creates choices and potential options, while also identifying risks, implications of operating in a different world, and new areas for research and exploration. To do this, organizations need to be able to learn about the world “out there,” as well as understand and shift their own positioning within it. How can ethnographers facilitate this quest to anticipate the future? Our work has focused on the organizational change needed for our clients to see and create new potentials. As ethnographers we bring stories into the organization,...

Practicing Foresight in China—A Public Event Hosted by EPIC China

Foresight: a conversation with Martha Cotton (Accenture/Fjord) & Rui Rao (Tencent), hosted by EPIC China

How do businesses and organizations anticipate the future in China and the United States? Join a conversation with Martha Cotton (Accenture/Fjord) & Rui Rao (Tencent), hosted by EPIC China! Friday, August 27, 6:30–8:00 pm US Pacific Time / Saturday, August 28, 9:30–11:00 am China Standard Time REGISTER NOW Join Martha Cotton (Managing Director with Accenture…

Scaling Futures: Foresight that Delivers Meaning and Value

RICH RADKA, Chair Fuse Foresight WENDY CHAMBERLIN BOMA Project GEMMA JOHN Human City RAMESH LOGANATHAN IIIT Hyderabad This panel explores the specific reasons organizations generate ideas about the future, the methods they choose, how they act on foresight, and consequences for both business and society. Panelists address the theme of scale in various dimensions, such as how to appropriately scale our imaginings, scaling to multiple time horizons, scaling breadth vs. depth of focus, and thinking of scale in terms of organizational value creation. Panelists Rich Radka has 20+ years of providing deep human insights to corporate, scale-up and public sector clients in the arenas of  innovation, customer experience, strategy and forecasting. He brings inspired design thinking, and a practical human-centred approach to co-create solutions that involve customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders.Wendy Chamberlin serves as the Global Program Director for the BOMA Project, a livelihood development...

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...

Sustainability: Addressing Global Issues At A Human Scale

LEE RYAN More Things Considered LOUISA WOOD More Things Considered Our tiny provocation is that the word “sustainability” is not sustainable. Just using it is sabotaging our efforts to build a better future for the planet. Despite decades of global sustainability discourse, the world is still going to hell. What's gone wrong? Our paper is about willful ignorance and complicity at a global scale; the benefits of small talk; and a better, more effective word than sustainability. Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 300–321, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...

Where Can We Find an Ethics for Scale?: How to Define an Ethical Infrastructure for the Development of Future Technologies at Global Scale

IAN DULL ReD Associates FANI NTAVELOU BAUM ReD Associates THOMAS HUGHES ReD Associates Despite companies facing real consequences for getting ethics wrong, basic ethical questions in emerging technologies remain unresolved. Companies have begun trying to answer these tough questions, but their techniques are often hindered by the classical approach of moral philosophy and ethics – namely normative philosophy – which prescribe an approach to resolving ethical dilemmas from the outset, based on assumed moral truths. In contrast, we propose that a key foundation for ‘getting ethics right’ is to do the opposite: to discover them, by going out into the world to study how relevant people resolve similar ethical dilemmas in their daily lives – a project we term ‘grounded ethics’. Building from Durkheim's theory of moral facts and more recent developments in the anthropology of morals and ethics, this paper explores the methods and theory useful to such a mission – synthesizing these into a framework to guide future...

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;...

Scale, Nuance, and New Expectations in Ethnographic Observation and Sensemaking

ALEXANDRA ZAFIROGLU Intel Corporation YEN-NING CHANG Intel Corporation Case Study—We consider new expectations for ethnographic observation and sensemaking in the next 20-25 years, as technology industry ethnographers' work unfolds in the increasing presence of the type of analytical capabilities specially trained (and self-training) machines can do ‘better’ and ‘cheaper’ than humans as they can take in, analyze and model digital data at much higher volumes and with an attention to nuance not achievable through human cognition alone. We do so by re-imagining three of our existing ethnographic research projects with the addition of very specific applications of machine learning, computer vision, and Internet of Things sensing and connectivity technologies. We draw speculative conclusions about: (1) how data in-and-of-the world that drives tech innovation will be collected and analyzed, (2) how ethnographers will approach analysis and findings, and (3) how the evidence produced by ethnographers will be evaluated and validated....